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In Unanimous Vote, Jan. 6 Commission Holds Steve Bannon in Contempt of Congress

Criminal charges from Congress have never been filed against someone who has asserted executive privilege protections.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks with Raheem Kassam on his terrace at Hotel de Russie on September 22, 2018, in Rome, Italy.

Through a unanimous vote, members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol building opted to recommend criminal charges for former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who has refused to cooperate with a subpoena the committee issued to him late last month.

The commission voted 9-0 on Tuesday night in favor of the measure, which will now face the full House of Representatives for consideration. According to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), that action will take place on Thursday and is expected to pass.

After that vote, the matter will be sent to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington D.C., where the ultimate decision on pressing charges against Bannon will be made.

Bannon has refused to testify before the panel in a closed-door meeting, arguing that Trump’s presidential executive privilege prevents him from doing so. No criminal charges have ever been filed against someone in a case where executive privilege has been asserted.

The two vice chairs of the commission, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming), both expressed the importance of charging Bannon with contempt.

“Mr. Bannon stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena. That’s not acceptable,” Thompson said on Tuesday. “No one in this country, no matter how wealthy or how powerful, is above the law.”

Cheney noted that Bannon’s executive privilege claims may reveal critical information about the Capitol breach.

“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th,” Cheney said. “And we will get to the bottom of that.”

Bannon’s claims of executive privilege rest on flimsy ground. As a former president, Trump is not the final arbiter over what constitutes executive privilege — that decision rests with current President Joe Biden, who last week formally rejected Trump’s claims to privilege after Trump sought to prevent records from the National Archives from being shared with the January 6 commission. Trump is now suing against that decision, though many believe the lawsuit is more of a “delay tactic” than a challenge based on sound legal reasoning.

The commission wants Bannon to appear before them in a closed-door session to discuss comments he made before the January 6 attack on the Capitol building. In their original subpoena order, the commission noted that Bannon was present at the Willard Hotel the day before the attack, where Trump associates were working to block the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by urging members of Congress to vote against certification. The subpoena also pointed out that Bannon himself predicted violence from Trump loyalists would take place.

“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said on January 5 during his radio show.

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