The House Select Committee investigating the Capitol attack will begin criminal contempt proceedings against Steve Bannon, citing the former Trump strategist’s refusal to cooperate with the panel’s subpoena requests at the direction of the former president.
“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,” committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Thursday. “We reject his position entirely … so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.”
Trump’s lawyers have directed witnesses not to cooperate with congressional investigators, invoking executive privilege. But the Biden administration has rejected the former president’s attempt to withhold documents from the investigating panel.
Thompson scheduled a Tuesday committee vote to adopt a contempt report.
“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,” Thompson said.
The committee’s action represents a major escalation in its effort to compel the cooperation of witnesses and likely sets up a new legal battle for documents and testimony.
Thompson’s announcement comes a day after the panel issued a subpoena to former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who lawmakers say repeatedly attempted to use his position to overturn the 2020 election and “interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”
Clark has emerged as a central figure in the former president’s efforts to deny President Joe Biden’s election.
“The Select Committee needs to understand all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results,” Thompson said of the Clark subpoena. “We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration.”
Last week, Clark was featured prominently in a damning Senate Judiciary Committee report that found he attempted to countermand the top leaders at the department by drafting a letter to Georgia officials seeking to delay the state’s certification of election results.
Bannon’s lawyers, meanwhile, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But they have formally notified the committee of Bannon’s intention to refuse investigators’ requests.
“Since executive privileges belong to President Trump, and he has, through his counsel, announced his intention to assert those executive privileges … we must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege,” Bannon’s legal team told the committee last week.
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