HomeAmericaJanuary 6 panel moves to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

January 6 panel moves to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

“Mr. Bannon has refused to cooperate with the select committee and has instead hidden behind the former president’s inadequate, blanket, and vague statements that he has asked to be enforced,” said Democratic Rep. Benny Thompson, who chair of the committee, said in a statement on Thursday.

Bannon was scheduled for a statement before the committee on Thursday, and Bannon’s attorney wrote in a letter to the panel the day before that his client would not testify or document unless the committee was on executive with former President Donald Trump. Doesn’t reach an agreement with Trump. Privilege or the court weighs in on the matter.

“We completely reject his position,” Thompson continued in his statement. “The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our summons, so we must proceed with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.”

With the committee officially announcing its decision to proceed with criminal contempt for Bannon, the next step is for the committee to hold a business meeting, which Thompson said would take place on October 19.

what happens next

Next week’s business meeting is the first in a series of steps needed to move forward with criminal contempt. At this meeting, the committee will adopt a contempt report, which outlines the attempts made by the committee to get the witness to comply with the summons and the failure by the witness to do so.

This report is then sent to the House for vote. If the vote is successful, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Under the law, this certification requires the United States Attorney to “bring the matter to a grand jury for its own action,” but the Justice Department will also make its own determination to prosecute.

Any person found liable for contempt of Congress is guilty of an offense that may result in fines and imprisonment of one to 12 months. But the process is rarely enforced, and rarely leads to jail time.

As serious as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House’s choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning shot than a solution. It can take years for Bannon to be held in criminal contempt through prosecution, and historical criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.

other summons

Three other Trump aides also faced a summons deadline this week. Two of them, Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former administration official Kash Patel, have been “engaged” with the committee, according to the panel, although it is unclear whether the liaison is for any sort of cooperation. . An aide to the committee told CNN on Thursday that the selection committee agreed to postpone the appearances of Patel and Meadows for a short time as they continue to investigate.

But Patel and Meadows seem to have given themselves more time, with the committee clarifying Thursday that their patience is limited. Representative Adam Schiff echoed that sentiment in an interview Thursday, which provided a rare window into how the committee is interacting with these individuals.

Schiff described Patel to MSNBC as “a demonstration of the principle in the Trump administration that whatever the president wanted to do, the more willing you were, no matter how dishonest, the higher and faster you could rise.”

“And he came through the Trump administration like Phoenix in one position after another, even being considered for taking over the CIA,” Schiff said, adding that Patel was “a rogue Zelig.” .

The committee was only recently able to serve a subpoena to Trump’s former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, and his deadline to appear for a statement was delayed. Chances are.

focus on bannon

CNN reported on Wednesday That the committee is integrated into its plan to seek criminal charges against those who refuse to comply, and lawmakers publicly honed Bannon in discussing the option.

Schiff told MSNBC on Wednesday, “Some of these witnesses, people like Steve Bannon, who feel publicly about their contempt for Congress can get away with it for four years, because Is.”

Schiff, who is also chairman of the Intelligence Committee, noted that Bannon had Refused to cooperate with the House’s Russia investigation During the Trump administration because he would “never be held in contempt.”

“He will never be prosecuted by the Trump Justice Department. But those days are over. And I consider it essential not only to our investigation, but I also see it as an enforcement of the rule of law, that Is our democracy recovering,” the California Democrat said.

The letter to Bannon’s legal team says it is up to the courts to decide whether they are ultimately compelled to cooperate – essentially daring the House to prosecute or hold in criminal contempt. .

“As such, until these issues are resolved, we are unable to respond to your request for documents and testimony,” wrote attorney Robert Costello.

The claim that Bannon may be covered by the presidency of a former president is unusual, as Bannon had not been working for the federal government during the period surrounding the January 6 Uprising.

CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen hit back sharply on Costello’s letter on Wednesday, saying, “It’s just wrong. The letter cited a case that says the ‘president’ can determine executive privileges.” But Trump is no longer the ‘President’.” In the United States, we only have one of them at a time, that’s Joe Biden, and he hasn’t claimed privilege here.”

Claims of privilege generally apply to deliberations between officials and government employees close to the president, and Bannon was fired from his role as a White House adviser in 2017.

Many legal experts agree with the committee that Bannon, as a private citizen, would not stand to block a subpoena by claiming executive privilege.

Historical criminal contempt cases

As serious as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House’s choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning shot than a solution. It can take years for Bannon to be held in criminal contempt through a prosecution, and historical criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.

“They’re kind of in a box,” former House General Counsel Stanley Brand said on Wednesday. “Any way they go is a legal Donnybrook, potentially it will take time.”

Congress almost never forces an obstinate witness to testify through prosecution, According to several longtime Washington attorneys familiar with the proceedings of Congress.
An Environmental Protection Agency official in the Reagan administration was the last person to be held for criminal contempt of Congress. It took eight days for the DC U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Justice Department to receive a contempt of house referral for Rita LaValle in 1983 indict him for being a grand jury. LaValle contested the charges for trial, and a the jury found him not guilty.
At least one other criminal contempt proceedings preceded LaValle, during the anti-Communist McCarthy-era investigations of the 1950s, Was overturned On appeal by the Supreme Court. In recent administrations, the Department of Justice Has refused to prosecute the contempt referral – Although in those situations, Congress has made contemptuous referrals on members of the current presidential administration.

“I’m watching people on TV curiously about this. They’re going to send [Bannon] for criminal contempt. Ok. Fine. “That starts the case,” Brand, who was House general counsel during Lavelle’s contempt proceedings, told CNN. It is not automatic that they are being blamed.”

The criminal contempt approach is also structured as a punishment more than an attempt to compel a witness to speak.

“It’s not like contempt of civil, where you keep the keys to your prison cell and are released” if a witness agrees to testify, Brand said.

Instead, the House essentially loses control of the case as the Justice Department takes over the trial.

“They have no time,” Brand said. “They have to do it before next year, before the elections are held.”

This story and title have been updated with additional developments on Thursday.

CNN’s Christie Johnson contributed to this report.

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