Trump aide Steve Bannon failed to appear for a statement on Thursday before a January 6 select committee, paving the way for a House panel to bring criminal charges against him for defying a congressional subpoena.
why it matters: It’s the first major test of how the committee will react to the refusal of witnesses to cooperate, an obstacle that stymied countless Democratic investigations during the Trump era by triggering protracted legal battles.
What are they saying: Committee chairman Benny Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement.
- “The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our summons, so we must proceed with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt. I have informed the Select Committee that we will be up for a business meeting on Tuesday evening. Will call to vote on adopting a contempt report.”
Catch up soon: Bannon’s lawyer sent a letter Informed the committee last week that it would not cooperate with the investigation, citing a claim of executive privilege by former President Trump.
- Democrats and many legal experts criticized the claim of privilege as dubious, as Bannon was fired by Trump in 2017 and was a private citizen at the time of the January 6 Capitol attack.
- Bannon’s lawyer wrote that the Executive Privileges Committee and Trump had a case to work with, and that he would comply with the subpoena once the courts resolved that issue.
what to watch: Committee indicated earlier That it would move swiftly to enforce subpoenas against noncooperative witnesses, possibly to hold them in contempt of Congress through a House vote.
- That contempt citation would then be sent to the Justice Department, which will consider whether to bring criminal charges — a process that could take months.
- Democrats expect Attorney General Merrick Garland, who vowed to investigate Jan. highest priority, will strengthen Congress’ surveillance capacity by setting an example from Bannon and others who defied the summons.
big picture: The committee has so far issued 19 summons as part of a detailed inquiry into the circumstances around January 6. Bannon was summoned. same day As former Pentagon official Kash Patel, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former White House social media chief Dan Scavino.
- Patel also failed to appear for his scheduled statement on Thursday, but the committee said before That he and Meadows were “engaged” with investigators.
- scavino was finally served With a summons last week after struggling to physically locate him. He and Meadows are scheduled for a statement on Friday, but it is unclear whether they will appear.