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Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Stephanie Keith via Getty Images)

'Good': House Panel Moves to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt

"Witnesses who try to stonewall the select committee will not succeed," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the panel investigating the January 6 insurrection.

Kenny Stancil

The U.S. House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection is moving to hold former President Donald Trump's erstwhile strategist Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify about the right-wing attack on the Capitol, the panel announced Thursday.

"The select committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas."

"Mr. Bannon has declined to cooperate with the select committee and is instead hiding behind the former president's insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke," Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the panel, said in a statement.

As CNN reported, "Bannon was scheduled for a deposition in front of the committee on Thursday, and Bannon's lawyer wrote in a letter the day before to the panel saying that his client will not provide testimony or documents until the committee reaches an agreement with former President Donald Trump over executive privilege or a court weighs in on the matter."

Thompson said that "we reject his position entirely."

"The select committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt," added Thompson, who said he has scheduled a business meeting for next Tuesday to vote on adopting a contempt report.

Thompson's announcement was met with praise from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a watchdog group that responded to the news with a simple, "Good."

The panel's move comes less than a week after President Joe Biden ordered federal record-keepers to give House lawmakers involved in the January 6 probe access to Trump's White House documents—denying Trump's attempt to shield potentially incriminating information from scrutiny through executive privilege.

CNN explained "what happens next":

The business meeting next week is the first in a series of steps needed to move forward with criminal contempt. In this meeting, the committee will adopt a contempt report, which outlines the efforts the committee made to get a witness to comply with the subpoena, and the failure by the witness to do so.

This report is then referred to the House for a vote. If the vote succeeds, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.] certifies the report to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. Under law, this certification then requires the United States attorney to "bring the matter before the grand jury for its action," but the Justice Department will also makes its own determinations for prosecuting.

Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment. But this process is rarely invoked, and rarely leads to jail time.

As severe 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. Holding Bannon in criminal contempt through a prosecution could take years, and historic criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.

Three additional Trump allies—his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and former administration official Kash Patel—are also subject to subpoena deadlines this week.

While Meadows and Patel have reportedly been "engaging" with the panel, it is not clear if that contact rises to the level of cooperation. After struggling to locate Scavino for weeks, the committee served him a subpoena just five days ago, "and his deadline to appear for a deposition has likely been delayed," according to CNN.

In his statement, Thompson said that "the select committee will use every tool at its disposal to get the information it seeks, and witnesses who try to stonewall the select committee will not succeed."

"All witnesses are required to provide the information they possess so the committee can get to the facts," he continued. "We're grateful to the many individuals who are voluntarily participating and to witnesses who are complying with subpoenas, including several who met the deadline to begin producing materials to the select committee."

"We're moving ahead quickly to get answers for the American people about what happened on January 6th," he added, to "help secure the future of American democracy."

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