WASHINGTON — A congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is expected to vote Tuesday night to hold former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon in contempt for not cooperating with its inquiry, a significant escalation in its efforts to get answers about the insurrection from the firebrand political operative.
The vote comes as the House panel is running into stiff resistance from former President Donald Trump, who has told allies and associates not to cooperate with the inquiry. On Monday, Trump launched a legal battle to stop the committee from obtaining records from his time in the White House, arguing in a federal lawsuit that the House committee is on a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition.”
The special House committee has been tasked with uncovering what led to the melee by a pro-Trump mob that contributed to five deaths, injured scores of police officers and delayed the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory. The panel has sought testimony and records from a broad array of former Trump administration officials, including Bannon, who helped run Trump’s 2016 campaign and served briefly in the White House but was a private citizen in the run-up to the riot.
The panel “will use every tool at its disposal to get the information it seeks, and witnesses who try to stonewall the Select Committee will not succeed,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, said last week.
The criminal contempt vote stems from Bannon’s decision to defy the committee’s subpoena seeking records and a deposition scheduled for last week. Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, said in a letter to the committee that Bannon would not comply with the subpoena until lawmakers reached an agreement with Trump or until a court rules on the matter.
Costello cited a letter he received from Trump’s attorney requesting that Bannon assert executive privilege, a legal doctrine that has allowed presidents to withhold certain confidential communications from public disclosure.
The committee is scheduled to vote on a resolution, which it released Monday, that lays out its case for why it needs information from Bannon and why he should be held in criminal contempt. If the House votes to endorse the resolution, Bannon will be referred to the Justice Department for possible prosecution.
The resolution asserted that Bannon “had multiple roles relevant to this investigation, including his role in constructing and participating in the ‘stop the steal’ public relations effort that motivated the attack, (and) his efforts to plan political and other activity in advance of January 6th.”
It noted that Bannon urged Trump supporters to “take dramatic action” and said on his podcast on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” Bannon was right. The next day, hundreds of Trump supporters swarmed into the Capitol, beat police officers, and chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” after Trump called out his vice president for refusing to try to overturn the electoral vote. The rioters forced lawmakers to evacuate both chambers of Congress.
The committee also argued that Bannon, who held no government role in January, had no legal basis to ignore the committee’s subpoena. It noted that it is not seeking information related to official government matters but rather “efforts to overturn legitimate election results and an attack on our democratic institutions.”