“Mr Bannon refused to cooperate with the select committee and instead hides behind the former president’s insufficient, general and vague statements about the privileges he purported to invoke,” said Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, who chairs the committee, in a press release. statement Thursday.
Bannon was due to testify before the committee on Thursday, and Bannon’s attorney wrote the day before in a letter to the panel saying his client would not provide testimony or documents until the committee reached an agreement with the former. President Donald Trump on executive privilege or a tribunal rules on the matter.
“We reject his position entirely,” Thompson continued in his statement. “The select committee will not tolerate contempt for our subpoenas, so we must move forward with the proceedings to remove Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.”
With the committee officially announcing its decision to go ahead with criminal contempt of Bannon, the next step is for the committee to hold a business meeting, which Thompson said would take place on October 19.
“The reason some of these witnesses, people like Steve Bannon, who have expressed their contempt for Congress believe they can get away with it, is for four years they did,” said Wednesday. at MSNBC Committee member Adam Schiff.
“He would never be prosecuted by Trump’s Justice Department. But those days are over. And I consider this not only essential to our investigation, but I also consider this, the application of the rule of law, as a first test to know if our democracy is reestablished, “added the Californian Democrat.
CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen quickly rejected Costello’s letter on Wednesday, saying, “This is simply not true. The letter cites a case that ‘the president’ may make decisions about executive privilege. But Trump is no longer “the president.” In the United States, we only have one at a time, that’s Joe Biden, and he hasn’t asserted any privilege here. “
Three other Trump allies are also facing subpoena delays this week. Two of them, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and former administration official Kash Patel, have “engaged” with the committee, according to the panel, although it is not clear whether this contact is equivalent to a form of cooperation. Patel is not scheduled to appear Thursday for his testimony before the committee, several sources familiar with the plans told CNN.
As to whether Meadows and Patel will appear before the panel for their depositions later this week, committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida, said: “I expect them to do the thing. patriotic and appear before the committee, and if they have nothing to hide, there is no reason why they should not show up. “
“Awaiting Steve Bannon’s deposition”
Bannon has not cooperated so far, and lawmakers seized the opportunity ahead of Thursday’s deadline to reiterate he was obligated to do so.
“Looking forward to Steve Bannon’s deposition tomorrow and to receiving all of the testimony and evidence we have called,” Select committee representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said in a tweet on Wednesday. “It is a legal order as well as a civic duty to share information about the most radical violent attack on Congress since the War of 1812.”
In a letter to the committee earlier this month, Bannon’s attorney argued that “executive privileges belong to President Trump” and “we must accept his leadership and honor his invocation of executive privilege.”
Bannon’s legal team letter goes on to say that it may be up to the courts to decide whether he is ultimately forced to cooperate – in essence, daring the House to prosecute him or hold him in criminal contempt.
“As such, until these issues are resolved, we will not be able to respond to your request for documents and testimony,” wrote lawyer Robert Costello.
The claim that Bannon might be covered by former president’s privilege is unusual, as Bannon was not working for the federal government during the time surrounding the Jan.6 insurgency.
Claims of privilege normally apply to relatives of the president and deliberations among government employees, and Bannon was fired from his role as White House adviser in 2017.
Many legal experts agree with the committee that Bannon, as a private citizen, would not have standing to block a subpoena on the basis of executive privilege.
Historic criminal contempt cases
As serious as a referral for criminal contempt may seem, the House’s choice to resort to the Department of Justice may be more of a wake-up call than a solution. Holding Bannon for criminal contempt through prosecution could take years, and historic cases of criminal contempt have been derailed with appeals and acquittals.
“They’re in a box, sort of,” Stanley Brand, a former House general counsel, said Wednesday. “Any road they are going to take is legal donnybrook, it will potentially take some time.”
“I watch people on TV talking about this. They will send [Bannon] to criminal contempt. OKAY. Fine. This is just the beginning of the case, ”Brand, who was the House’s attorney general in the Lavelle contempt proceedings, told CNN. “There is a trial. It is not automatic that they are condemned. ”
The criminal contempt approach is also structured to be more of a punishment than an attempt to coerce a witness into speaking.
“It’s not like civil contempt, where you hold the keys to your jail cell and get released,” if a witness agrees to testify, Brand said.
Instead, the House essentially loses control of the case as the Justice Department takes over to prosecute.
“They don’t have time,” Brand added. “They have to do this before next year, before there is an election.”
This story and title was updated with additional developments on Thursday.
CNN’s Christie Johnson contributed to this report.