The House of Representatives committee investigating the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 appears headed Tuesday to initiating contempt of Congress charges against Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump’s longest-standing advisers, for refusing to cooperate with the probe.
The Democratic-controlled panel, investigating how and why hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building as lawmakers were certifying that Democrat Joe Biden had defeated Trump in last year’s presidential election, is expected to approve the contempt citation against the 67-year-old Bannon, sending it to the full House for a vote.
If the House also votes to hold Bannon in contempt, the citation would be sent to the federal prosecutor in Washington for presentation to a grand jury for possible indictment of Bannon. He could, if convicted, be sentenced to up to a year’s imprisonment, but such contempt of Congress charges are unusual and rarely result in prison time.
Trump, in the waning days of his presidency, urged supporters at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” to block certification of Biden’s victory. Soon afterward, more than 800 Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol, some of them vandalizing the building and fighting with police. More than 600 have been charged with an array of offenses. The incident left five people dead.
Trump has sought to stymie the committee’s investigation of what precipitated the rioting and his role in it. He has urged Bannon and other former aides subpoenaed by the committee to reject its requests, claiming executive privilege for White House documents, even though he left office January 20. Bannon was Trump’s chief strategist at the White House through the first seven months of 2017 and has remained as one of his most vocal supporters.
Trump filed a lawsuit Monday alleging the committee made an illegal, unfounded and overly broad request for his White House records.
Biden’s White House has argued that Trump has no legitimate privilege claim.
“The former president’s actions represented a unique — and existential — threat to our democracy that can’t be swept under the rug,” said spokesman Michael Gwin. “The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”
Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to probe the mayhem that would have been modeled on the one that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In response, the Democratic-controlled House then created the nine-member investigative panel, which includes two Republican lawmakers who have been vocal Trump critics.
In July, the panel heard vivid, detailed accounts from four police officers who encountered the rioters inside the Capitol on January 6 but has not heard more public testimony since then.