The House Jan. 6 select committee voted Tuesday night to recommend that Steve Bannon, a one-time top adviser to former President Donald Trump, be held in contempt of Congress over his refusal to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into the Capitol riot.
The panel’s unanimous recommendation will advance to the full House for another vote, which is expected to occur later this week. If approved, the measure will advance to the Justice Department, whose officials will make the final decision on whether to prosecute Bannon. The former Trump adviser could face a fine or a jail term of up to 12 months.
“Mr. Bannon stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena. That’s not acceptable,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the panel’s chairman, said in remarks prior to the vote. “No one in this country, no matter how wealthy or how powerful, is above the law.”
In their contempt report for Bannon, the panel said his team had “relied on no legal authority to support his refusal to comply in any fashion with the subpoena.” The report said Bannon had “specific knowledge about the events planned for January 6th before they occurred,” noting that he said on his Jan. 5 podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
Thompson indicated the panel would pursue similar action if other witnesses do not cooperate with the investigation.
The vote was seen as a critical moment for the select committee, whose members have vowed to compel Trump administration officials to cooperate with their investigation. The decision could set up a lengthy court battle over the extent of protection offered by executive privilege.
In late September, the select committee issued subpoenas for documents and testimony from four of Trump’s former aides – Bannon, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Daniel Scavino, and former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel. The panel ordered Bannon to appear at a deposition on Oct. 14.
Trump’s attorneys instructed the aides not to comply with the subpoena. Bannon declined to appear at the deposition. Bannon’s attorneys cited Trump’s instruction and argued the former president’s attempt to cite executive privilege should be resolved first.
President Biden declined to invoke executive privilege to prevent the release of Trump-era documents sought by the select committee. His decision prompted Trump to file a federal lawsuit against the Jan. 6 select committee and the National Archives this week, arguing the probe was a “vexatious, illegal fishing expedition.”
The committee rejected a request from Bannon’s attorney to delay a vote on the contempt report to allow consideration of Trump’s lawsuit.
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Bannon served as a top adviser to Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign and the early days of his administration. He left the White House in August 2017 and was not an active member of the administration during the period covered by the subpoena.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.