- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot voted Tuesday to hold Steve Bannon in contempt after the White House strategist under former President Donald Trump failed to appear for a scheduled deposition last week.

The Democratic-controlled committee sent the matter to the full House. If passed in the House, a criminal referral will be forwarded to the U.S. Attorney’s office recommending Mr. Bannon’s prosecution.

“It’s a shame that Mr. Bannon has put us in this position, but we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat and the panel chairman, said during his opening statement before the vote Tuesday.

“We believe Mr. Bannon has information relevant to our probe and will use the tools at our disposal to get that information,” he said.

The move comes amid the former president’s attempts to stymie the committee’s probe by telling his ex-advisers not to answer and suing the committee over their attempts to obtain White House documents.

“The former president’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe,” said Mr. Thompson and Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican and the panel co-chair, in a statement late Monday.

In September, the committee issued a subpoena demanding that Mr. Bannon produce “documents and communications” related to his alleged involvement in Mr. Trump’s efforts to contend the 2020 presidential election and appear for a deposition scheduled for last week.

Mr. Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, sent a letter to the House panel indicating that his client would not participate in a scheduled deposition, citing the former president’s assertion of executive privilege, which he said had yet to be ironed out by the committee.

In response, Mr. Thompson said the former president’s assertion, at the time, had not been communicated to the committee and did not absolve Mr. Bannon from participating in the investigation.

The committee contends that Mr. Trump’s claim of executive privilege, even if valid, would not apply to Mr. Bannon, who left the administration in 2017.

“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,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement last week. “We reject his position entirely.”

On Monday, Mr. Trump doubled down on his efforts to block the investigation by suing federal officials over the release of documents related to the Jan. 6 probe.

Mr. Trump’s legal team claims in the lawsuit that the House committee has “no legitimate legislative purpose” for their request. The legal team also continues to press their claim that, as a former president, Mr. Trump enjoys “inherent Constitutional rights of privilege.”

“The Select Committee’s authority to seek these records is clear,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney said. “We’ll fight the former President’s attempt to obstruct our investigation while we continue to push ahead successfully with our probe on a number of other fronts.”

Tuesday’s vote comes as several other former Trump officials are scheduled to appear before the committee, including Kash Patel, who was chief of staff to former acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino and former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark.

The committee has postponed Mr. Patel’s and Mr. Meadows’ appearances, which were scheduled for last week, according to an aide who said the two continue to “engage” with the investigation. Mr. Scavino’s deposition has also been postponed due to a delay in issuing his subpoena.

Several members of the committee have indicated their firm commitment to hold those who fail to participate in the probe in contempt, and President Biden urged Congress to prosecute those who defy the committee’s subpoenas.

Mr. Biden’s comments on the matter sparked a curt response from the Department of Justice.

“The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” said Justice Department spokesperson Anthony Coley.

This article is based in part on wire-service reports. 

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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