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Politics January 6 committee takes aim at Bannon and tries to save Congress' power to investigate

07:30  19 october  2021
07:30  19 october  2021 Source:   cnn.com

Bannon will be held in contempt. What does that mean, and what powers does Congress have?

  Bannon will be held in contempt. What does that mean, and what powers does Congress have? The committee on the Capitol riot scheduled a Tuesday hearing to vote on holding Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Trump, in congressional contempt.The committee scheduled a Tuesday hearing to vote on holding Bannon in congressional contempt.

The January 6 committee's anticipated vote on Tuesday citing Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress may be one of the last chances for lawmakers to seek meaningful consequences for former President Donald Trump's attempt to effectively stage a coup.

Political strategist Steve Bannon gestures during a speech during an election rally in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Conservative radio host John Fredericks, a former Trump campaign chairman in Virginia, organized the © Steve Helber/AP Political strategist Steve Bannon gestures during a speech during an election rally in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. Conservative radio host John Fredericks, a former Trump campaign chairman in Virginia, organized the "Take Back Virginia Rally" in which former President Donald Trump called in.

After multiple and historic attempts to hold Trump to account for abuses of power -- including two impeachments -- failed to check his aberrant behavior, the rare move to try to enforce testimony from Bannon is intended to send a stern message to other allies of the former President whom the committee wants to question.

January 6 panel moves to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

  January 6 panel moves to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt The committee investigating the January 6 Capitol Hill riot announced Thursday it is moving forward to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena, as his game of chicken with the House panel now enters a new and critical phase. © Stephanie Keith/Getty Images NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 20: Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. Bannon and three other defendants have been indicted for allegedly defrauding donors in a $25 million border wall fundraising campaign.

What is at stake is nothing less than the ability of a separate, co-equal branch of government to hold the presidency to account now and in future generations.

The inquiry became even more critical Monday, after Trump sued in District Court in Washington, DC, to keep secret records from his presidency that the Biden administration has declined to protect for him, rejecting his claims of executive privilege.

Lawyers for the former President, who refused to accept his free and fair election defeat and who incited a mob that invaded the US Capitol seeking to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's victory, made the outlandish claim that the committee -- rather than Trump -- was "attempting to damage the republic itself and the citizens of the United States."

Capitol Hill riot investigation committee releases contempt report

  Capitol Hill riot investigation committee releases contempt report Lawmakers investigating the January 6th Capitol attack had asked Steven Bannon for documents and testimony from April 2020 on onwards relating to the attack but he refused. he may now be in contempt.Bannon has insisted he would not do so until the matter of former President Trump's 'executive privilege' is settled.

It is far from the first time that the ex-President has sought to cover up his own behind-the-scenes behavior during the most flagrant challenge to US democracy of modern times.

His latest obstruction offensive raises the obvious question of what exactly Trump and his acolytes are trying to cover up about the attempt to prevent a peaceful transfer of power and to steal an election that he lost. But his suppression of information and flurries of legal action are also familiar after four years of an administration that refused any accountability and that made a mockery of Congress' constitutional oversight duty.

The potential criminal contempt filing against Bannon is intended not just to force the firebrand prophet of Trump-style populism to testify about his conversations with the former President in the days around January 6. It's a principled stand since Bannon's refusal to show up after being subpoenaed would potentially create a precedent that would shatter Congress' capacity to investigate any executive branch officials or othes, even those not related to Trump.

January 6 panel approves Steve Bannon criminal contempt report

  January 6 panel approves Steve Bannon criminal contempt report The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol formally approved holding Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's closest allies, in contempt of Congress on Tuesday night, setting up a key House vote later this week. © Pool Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told CNN on Tuesday that he expects the full House to vote on criminal contempt charges for Bannon before the end of the week, and a source familiar with the floor schedule told CNN the plan is for the the chamber to vote on the referral on Thursday. After the full House vote, it would then get referred to the Justice Department.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California told CNN on Sunday that the contempt filing was designed to prove the investigation has teeth, and as a warning to other witnesses tempted to bow to Trump's efforts to scupper it.

"The fact that if the Justice Department prosecutes Steve Bannon, other witnesses will see they will face real consequences including jail time and potentially stiff fines. That is a way of getting people's attention," Schiff, a member of the select committee, told CNN's Jim Acosta on "Newsroom."

"Bannon's an important witness in his own right, but it's also important to send a message that the rule of law is back and people are going to need to pay attention."

The immediate audience for that message is other key Trump associates who have been subpoenaed already. They include Kash Patel, a former senior Pentagon official; Mark Meadows, Trump's final White House chief of staff; and Dan Scavino, former deputy chief of staff.

The January 6 panel is Democratic-led but includes two Republicans -- Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois -- who broke ranks and condemned Trump's behavior.

Steve Bannon Just Might Be Accidentally Saving America

  Steve Bannon Just Might Be Accidentally Saving America The rusty gears driving our current constitutional crisis ratcheted another step forward on Tuesday night as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection finally cracked down on (one) GOP official flagrantly defying its demands for documents and testimony. A bipartisan majority of committee lawmakers agreed that former Trump administration body-hider and World of Warcraft goldfarmer Steve Bannon was in contempt of his subpoena, a fact Bannon himself will gladly tell you. With a full vote in the House certain to pass, Attorney General Merrick Garland will soon be legally required to bring Bannon’s charges before a grand jury.

The committee was empaneled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after House and Senate Republican leaders, keen to ride Trump's popularity with GOP base voters in the midterm elections, thwarted a bipartisan agreement for an independent commission into the insurrection. The Republican obstruction underscored how Congress' capacity to investigate and restrain a wild presidency can be rendered very difficult when a party protects its own leader for partisan reasons and covers up his abuses of power.

When the committee votes to hold Bannon in criminal contempt, the full Democratic-controlled House will next have to follow suit and refer the matter to the US attorney for DC. Ultimately, it will be up to the Justice Department, under Attorney General Merrick Garland, to decide whether to prosecute.

Committee, White House dismiss Bannon claims

Setting the stage for Tuesday's meeting, the committee sent a letter to Bannon's lawyer that dismissed his claim that his conversations with Trump are covered by executive privilege. The protection is usually claimed by presidents to allow them to receive confidential advice from officials. But many legal experts view Bannon's strategy as dubious since he left the White House in 2017 and had no formal role at the time of the insurrection. And committee members want to talk to Bannon about any contacts with organizers of the insurrection in January, quite apart from his talks with Trump. And while ex-presidents have some recourse to executive privilege, final adjudications are left to the sitting president if they disagree.

House to vote on Bannon contempt as Justice decision looms

  House to vote on Bannon contempt as Justice decision looms WASHINGTON (AP) — The House is voting Thursday on whether to hold Steve Bannon, a longtime ally and aide to former President Donald Trump, in contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena from a committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. That committee has vowed to move swiftly and forcefully to punish anyone who won't cooperate with the probe. But it's likely up to the Justice Department, and the courts, to determine what happens next. If the House vote succeeds, as is expected, there’s still considerable uncertainty about whether the Justice Department will prosecute Bannon, despite Democratic demands for action.

Bannon's lawyer had previously argued that his client was not defying the committee but was simply complying with an instruction by Trump to go along with his effort to defend executive privilege. But the committee said in its letter that the ex-President had not communicated any assertion of privilege to the committee. And it described the notion that the concept protects Trump's conversations with Bannon as "unsupported."

And White House Deputy Counsel Jonathan Su wrote to Bannon attorney Robert Costello, saying that the Biden administration will not support his attempt to refuse to cooperate with the select committee on the grounds of executive privilege.

The showdown between Bannon and the committee has the potential to be the opening shot in a protracted legal battle that looks increasingly like a ruse to not just thwart the investigation but to delay its deliberations for as long as possible. If Republicans reclaim the House majority in next year's congressional elections, a distinct possibility given the tough history of midterms for first-term presidents, a new GOP speaker in thrall to Trump would almost certainly shut down the investigation.

So turning enforcement requests from Congress into a parade of court hearings, judgments, appeals and obstruction tactics could not only infuriate the committee members, it could run out the clock for the committee itself.

With that in mind, Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, and Cheney, the panel's vice chair, issued a joint statement on Monday evening warning they would fight any attempt by Trump to slow the process down.

Steve Bannon 'blew off a congressional subpoena' and may be held in contempt of Congress

  Steve Bannon 'blew off a congressional subpoena' and may be held in contempt of Congress The committee is sending a message to Bannon that he has "violated the law, and should be prosecuted for it," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California.Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist for the first few months of the Trump presidency, ignored subpoenas from the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

"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. Precedent and law are on our side," they wrote. "It's hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election."

The unusual nature of the confrontation -- over a former President exerting privilege on his own behalf even after he has left office -- could also lead to a seminal constitutional argument about deference due to ex-presidents and the scope of executive privilege once they have left office.

An aggressive pro-Trump partisan like Bannon may also welcome the chance to turn the legal battle into a political cause célèbre. Conservatives who brand the entire effort as an attempt to victimize the ex-President got some unexpected help last week when Biden agreed that people who refuse subpoenas should face the consequences.

The comment broke with the President's disciplined practice of avoiding any semblance of political interference with the Justice Department, which was repeatedly pressured by Trump to go along with his political vendettas. The department and the White House quickly vowed that decisions on Bannon and others would be approached purely on legal grounds. But the exchanges reflected the extreme pressure on Garland, who effectively holds the destiny of the January 6 probe in his hands.

There is also a question of whether the committee, once it has moved ahead with the Bannon criminal contempt citation, will go after other senior figures around the ex-President -- and perhaps even Trump himself. Hauling a former president before the committee for a deposition would likely cause a spectacle and its members may not wish to create a precedent. Kinzinger, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, held out the prospect of action against Trump but recognized those constraints.

House votes to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress

  House votes to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi will now recommend the contempt charge to the Justice Department, who has final say on whether to prosecute Steve Bannon.Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist for the first few months of the Donald Trump's presidency, ignored subpoenas from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The Select Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to hold Bannon in congressional contempt.

"If we subpoena all of a sudden the former President, we know that's going to become kind of a circus so that's not necessarily something we want to do up front," the Illinois Republican said. "But if he has pieces of information we need, we certainly will."

Trump raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth

In his filing to the DC District Court on Monday, the former President argued that committee requests for Trump-era documents currently held by the National Archives were too broad, included information subject to executive privilege and that the Presidential Records Act was unconstitutional. The suit also claims the committee subpoena has no legislative purpose. Lawmakers, however, say they need to investigate January 6 to see whether any new laws are necessary to stop anything similar from happening ever again.

Trump's team lashed out at his successor in the court filing, calling Biden's failure to protect the documents a "political ploy to accommodate his partisan allies."

Another member of the committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren -- a veteran of the Watergate investigations -- dismissed Trump's suit.

"I don't think it is well founded but the former President, we know, is someone who likes to sue a lot. He has engaged in frivolous lawsuits throughout his life," the California Democrat told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room."

But Trump did face a day in court -- of a sort -- on Monday. The former President answered questions for about four and a half hours in a deposition as part of a lawsuit brought by men alleging they were assaulted by his security team during a demonstration outside Trump Tower in New York in 2015.

"He answered the questions. Whether or not it was satisfactory, I think we will leave up to a jury in this matter," Benjamin Dictor, attorney for the men who filed the 2015 lawsuit, told CNN's Erin Burnett on Monday.

"He put his right hand in the air and he took an oath to tell the truth and that is the first time that that has happened since, well, before he was elected president. And that is a really meaningful thing."

House votes to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress .
Speaker Nancy Pelosi will now recommend the contempt charge to the Justice Department, who has final say on whether to prosecute Steve Bannon.Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist for the first few months of the Donald Trump's presidency, ignored subpoenas from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. The Select Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to hold Bannon in congressional contempt.

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