House Votes to Hold Steve Bannon in Contempt for Defying January 6 Committee Subpoena

POLITICS & POLICY
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court in the New York City, August 20, 2020. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The House of Representatives voted to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress on Thursday, a week after Bannon defied a subpoena by the select committee on the January 6 Capitol riot.

By a margin of 229-202, representatives voted to hold Bannon in contempt, referring the case to the Justice Department for potential prosecution. Nine Republicans voted in favor of the measure, including seven who voted to impeach former President Trump following the riot.

“The contempt charges against Mr. Bannon will now be forwarded to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution,” Representative Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), a member of the January 6 committee, said following the vote. “Attorney General [Merrick] Garland must take up those charges without delay and bring Mr. Bannon to justice.”

Representative Jim Banks (R., Ind.) said the vote set up an “illicit criminal investigation into American citizens” and that Bannon is a “Democrat party boogeyman,” in comments on the House floor.

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The January 6 committee subpoenaed Bannon for records of communications in the lead-up to the riot. However, Bannon’s attorney Robert Costello informed the committee last week that he would not comply with the subpoena, because the former president has asserted executive privilege over White House records sought by the committee.

Charges of criminal contempt of Congress could be difficult to pursue.

“Since at least the Reagan Administration, there has not been a successful prosecution under the criminal contempt statute,” Thomas Spulak, a former House legal counsel, told Politico on Tuesday. “There are institutional considerations involving DOJ, one of which is whether Garland wants to be drawn into a continuation of the Trump Administration subpoena battles.”

The January 6 committee saw controversy earlier this year when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), refused to accept two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R., Calif.) nominations to the committee, including that of Banks. As a result, McCarthy pulled his nominations, leaving only staunch anti-Trump Republicans Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois on the committee.

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