The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol voted unanimously Tuesday night to recommend that the full House hold former Trump administration adviser Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for defying the panel’s subpoena for documents and testimony.

The action escalates a brewing legal showdown that will mark the first test of the committee’s power to counter former President Donald Trump’s attempts to thwart its inquiry into the circumstances of the attack on the Capitol by his supporters, which injured dozens of law enforcement officers and interrupted Congress’s certification of the 2020 Electoral College results.

Bannon has refused to testify or provide documents to the committee at Trump’s direction.

The resolution adopted by the committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans will now go to the House floor for a vote that requires a simple majority to pass. That vote is expected to come on Thursday. The matter then would be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who would decide along with Attorney General Merrick Garland on whether to prosecute.

“I expect that the House will quickly adopt this referral to the Justice Department and that the U.S. attorney will do his duty and prosecute Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress,” the committee chair, Bennie Thompson, said before the Tuesday vote.

“Mr. Bannon will comply with our investigation or he will face the consequences.”

Bannon, who helped run Trump’s 2016 campaign and was his chief political strategist until he left the White House in 2017, potentially could be fined as much as $100,000 and imprisoned for as long as a year.

“Information in Mr. Bannon’s possession is essential to putting other witnesses’ testimony and productions into appropriate context and to ensuring the select committee can fully and expeditiously complete its work,” the committee’s contempt resolution, released Monday night by the panel, said.

Three others similarly subpoenaed but directed by Trump not to cooperate — including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — have not publicly said if they would follow his instructions.

Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, has written to the committee that his client would not testify or provide other evidence until the panel reaches an agreement with Trump or a court weighs in on executive privilege.

The contempt resolution unveiled by Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, on Monday points out that Trump and his legal team have yet to make a formal assertion of executive privilege. It also argues the information being sought from Bannon would not qualify because he was not a government employee or a Trump adviser during the period under investigation.

While many previous congressional contempt citations have gone nowhere because presidential administrations have been unwilling to prosecute current or former officials, a report released earlier Tuesday by the Congressional Research Service suggests this case could be different.

“Bannon appears to be asserting an executive privilege defense to the subpoena that the Biden administration reportedly does not support,” the CRS report says. “Bannon could face a more credible threat of criminal prosecution than was the case in other recent criminal contempt of Congress referrals.”

Bannon reportedly spoke with Trump directly about the plans for Jan. 6, according to the committee’s resolution. It also cites Bannon’s “role in constructing and participating in the ‘Stop the Steal’ public relations effort that motivated the attack, his efforts to plan political and other activity in advance of Jan. 6th, and his participation in the events of that day from a ‘war room’ organized at the Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C. Hotel.”

“In short, Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of Jan. 6th, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” according to the resolution.

On Tuesday night, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the top Republican on the House committee, said, “the American people are entitled to Mr. Bannon’s first-hand testimony about all these relevant facts, but Mr. Bannon is refusing to provide it.”

The committee’s vote comes a day after Trump filed suit in District Court in Washington to block the National Archives from allowing the committee access to still-secret records from his presidency, claiming that request was overly broad.

The Biden administration has thrown its support behind the committee’s efforts for information about Jan. 6.

Jonathan Su, President Joe Biden’s deputy counsel, in a Monday letter to Costello that was reviewed by Bloomberg News, wrote that an assertion of privilege over conversations Bannon had with Trump or White House staff after he left the administration wasn’t justified and “is not in the public interest.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.