The House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold former President Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress after he declined to cooperate with a congressional investigation of the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally.
The partisan vote came after the Democrat-led Jan. 6 Committee voted to move the charge forward to be confirmed in the House. Members of the commission alleged that Bannon refusing a subpoena to provide documents and testimony to the panel constitutes contempt of Congress.
The contempt resolution argues that Bannon has no legal standing to defy the subpoena.
Trump’s attorney argued that Bannon shouldn’t comply because the requested information is protected by the former president’s executive privilege. Team Trump submitted a memo to Trump’s website announcing a “lawsuit to defend executive privilege.”
“The January 6th Committee is a partisan sham to distract Americans from the Democrats’ policies that are killing and robbing Americans,” the memo alleged.
The committee says it wants Bannon’s documents and testimony because he was in touch with Trump before the Jan. 6 incident, because he tried to get Trump to focus on the congressional certification of the election results, and because he said on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.
Bannon “appears to have 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 Jan. 6,” the committee alleged in the resolution.
With the House’s certification of the charge, it is now up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to decide whether or not to pursue legal action.
President Joe Biden has encouraged the DOJ, led by his appointee Merrick Garland, to prosecute those found to have violated the Jan. 6 commission’s subpoenas.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki later sought to clarify Biden’s remarks, writing on Twitter that he “supports the work of the committee and the independent role of the Department of Justice to make any decisions about prosecutions.”
The post drew pushback from Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), who responded by wondering if the DOJ would be charging Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who’s under investigation for alleged tax fraud.
“How about the millions of illegals crossing our southern border? There is nothing independent about this DOJ. They serve the far left and only care about investigating conservatives,” Steube said.
The DOJ has promised that it will react to the case on its merits, and will not be swayed by partisanship.
“The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” a DOJ spokesperson told news outlets in an Oct. 15 statement.
Garland promised much the same. “The department recognizes the important oversight role Congress plays in respect to the executive branch. I’ll say what a DOJ spokesperson said yesterday: The House votes for a referral of a contempt charge, the DOJ will do what it always does—apply the facts and the law and make a decision.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) argued that the subpoena issued by the committee is “invalid” because neither party knows whether Bannon is protected under executive privilege.
“They’re issuing an invalid subpoena,” McCarthy said. “Issuing an invalid subpoena weakens our power. He has the right to go to the court to see if he has executive privilege or not. I don’t know if he does or not, but neither does the committee. So they’re weakening the power of Congress itself by issuing an invalid subpoena.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) applauded the committee at a Thursday press conference. She alleged that “The January 6 domestic terrorist attack was intended to interfere with the constitutional transfer of power.”
House Democratic Caucus Co-chairman Pete Aguillar (D-Calif.) said of the vote. “Let me be clear that this is not done to be punitive, this is done to uphold the law.”
Trump has also commented on the ongoing proceedings on his website.
Trump said in a statement on the situation: “This is just a continuation of the Witch Hunt which started with the now fully debunked and discredited Russia, Russia, Russia Scam, quickly reverting to a perfect phone call with Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, Impeachment Hoax #1, Impeachment Hoax #2, and now this. The Unselect Committee is composed of absolute political hacks who want to destroy the Republican Party and are decimating America itself.”
“I am the only thing in their way,” Trump concluded, promising continued intervention on Bannon’s behalf.
Zachary Steiber and Ivan Pentchoukov contributed to this report.