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Politics 'The stakes are enormous:' Bannon case tests Congress' power

01:30  21 october  2021
01:30  21 october  2021 Source:   msn.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.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House is expected to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. It's up to the Justice Department, and the courts, to determine what happens next.

In this file photo from Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's former chief strategist, talks about the approaching midterm election during an interview with The Associated Press, in Washington. The special congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has set a vote for Tuesday to recommend criminal contempt charges against Bannon after he defied the panel's subpoena. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file) © Provided by Associated Press In this file photo from Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018, Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's former chief strategist, talks about the approaching midterm election during an interview with The Associated Press, in Washington. The special congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection has set a vote for Tuesday to recommend criminal contempt charges against Bannon after he defied the panel's subpoena. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, file)

As lawmakers ready a Thursday vote to send a contempt referral to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, there’s considerable uncertainty about whether the Justice Department will prosecute Bannon for refusing to cooperate with the investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection, despite Democratic demands for action.

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.

The outcome could determine not only the effectiveness of the House investigation, but the strength of Congress’ power to call witnesses and demand information — factors that will certainly be weighing on Justice officials as they determine whether to move forward. While the department has historically been reticent to use its prosecution power against witnesses found in contempt of Congress, the circumstances are exceptional as lawmakers investigate the worst attack on the U.S. Capitol in two centuries.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., arrives as the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meets to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's allies in contempt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © Provided by Associated Press Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., arrives as the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meets to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's allies in contempt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

If Congress can’t perform its oversight job, the message sent to “the general public is these subpoenas are a joke,” said Stephen Saltzburg, a George Washington University law professor and former Justice Department official. He said if Attorney General Merrick Garland, a former federal judge whom Saltzburg regards “as one of the most nonpartisan people I know,” doesn't authorize a prosecution, “he’s going to be letting the Constitution, it seems to me, be placed in jeopardy. And it’s way too important for him to let that happen.”

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.

The House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol meets to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's allies in contempt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday evening, Oct. 19, 2021. From left to right are Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © Provided by Associated Press The House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol meets to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's allies in contempt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday evening, Oct. 19, 2021. From left to right are Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats are pressuring Justice to take the case, arguing that nothing less than democracy is at stake.

“The stakes are enormous,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a member of the panel. “The Congress of the United States under Article One has the power to investigate in order to inform our deliberations about how to legislate going forward. That’s what this is about.”

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., listen as the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meets to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's allies in contempt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) © Provided by Associated Press Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., listen as the House select committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol meets to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump's allies in contempt, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Still, prosecution is not a given. Assuming his post after a turbulent Trump era, Garland has prioritized restoring what he has called “the norms” of the department. On his first day, he told rank-and-file prosecutors that they should be focused on equal justice and not feel pressure to protect the president’s allies or to attack his enemies. He has repeatedly said political considerations shouldn't play a role in any decisions.

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.

FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington. A House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is moving swiftly to hold at least one of Donald Trump’s allies, former White House aide Steve Bannon, in contempt. That's happening as the former president is pushing back on the probe in a new lawsuit. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021 file photo, violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol in Washington. A House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is moving swiftly to hold at least one of Donald Trump’s allies, former White House aide Steve Bannon, in contempt. That's happening as the former president is pushing back on the probe in a new lawsuit. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

And his deputies pushed back — hard — when President Joe Biden suggested to reporters last week that Bannon should be prosecuted for contempt.

“The Department of Justice will make its own independent decisions in all prosecutions based solely on the facts and the law. Period. Full stop,” Garland’s spokesman, Anthony Coley, said on Friday, in response to the president’s comments.

The Jan. 6 panel voted Tuesday evening to recommend the contempt charges against Bannon, citing reports that he spoke with Trump before the insurrection, promoted the protests that day and predicted there would be unrest. Members said Bannon was alone in completely defying his subpoena, while more than a dozen other witnesses were at least speaking to the panel.

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.

If the full House votes to hold Bannon in contempt on Thursday, as expected, the matter will be referred to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. It would then be up to prosecutors in that office whether to present the case to a grand jury for possible criminal charges. The office is run by Channing Phillips, an acting U.S. attorney who had previously served in the position in the Obama administration. Another attorney, Matt Graves, has been nominated for the post, but his nomination is pending in the Senate.

“If the House of Representatives certifies a criminal contempt citation, the Department of Justice, as with all criminal referrals, will evaluate the matter based on the facts and the law, consistent with the Principles of Federal Prosecution,” said Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.

The Justice Department has in the past been wary of prosecuting congressional contempt cases, especially when the White House and the House of Representatives are controlled by opposing political parties.

The department in the Obama administration declined to prosecute then-Attorney General Eric Holder and former IRS official Lois Lerner following contempt referrals from the Republican-led House, while George W. Bush’s Justice Department declined to charge Harriet Miers after the former White House counsel defied a subpoena in a Democratic investigation into the mass firings of United States attorneys.

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.

In addition, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has said in multiple opinions — including one from the 1980s involving Anne Gorsuch, the mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who refused to turn over documents in her capacity as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency — that the Justice Department has discretion on when to prosecute for contempt, even when receiving a referral from the House.

Still, the Bannon case is different, as Democrats hold both Congress and the White House — and because the committee is investigating a violent insurrection of Trump’s supporters who beat law enforcement officers, broke into the Capitol and interrupted the certification of Biden’s victory.

“What we’re talking about is this massive, violent assault on American democracy," Raskin said.

Thomas Spulak, a former Democratic counsel to the House, said there are arguments that could be made for and against a Justice Department prosecution. On one hand, he said, “Some have suggested that perhaps this Justice Department doesn’t want to get caught up in a continuation in the saga that went on in the last administration over subpoenas with the House.”

But, given the severity and historic nature of Jan. 6, “This is a significant matter for the House and the House is going to press this very hard — and it might be difficult for the administration to not act on it.”

Even if the department does decide to prosecute, the case could take years to play out — potentially pushing past the 2022 election when Republicans could win control of the House and end the investigation.

And if they don’t prosecute, then the House will likely find another route. A House-authorized civil lawsuit could also take years, but force Bannon and any other witnesses to defend themselves in court.

Another option available to Congress would be to try to imprison witnesses who defy them – an unlikely, if not outlandish, scenario. Called “inherent contempt,” the process was used in the country’s early years but hasn’t been employed in almost a century.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, another member of the panel, says if Justice prosecutes the case it will have “a vigorous effect in terms of other potential witnesses' willingness to cooperate” or face consequences.

“I think the criminal justice system, when it has a mind to, can move very quickly,” Schiff said. “And we hope that it will.”

House votes for Justice Department to prosecute Steve Bannon .
The House of Representatives on Thursday voted to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress and to refer him to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, following Bannon’s refusal to cooperate with the bipartisan investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection. Two of those Republicans — Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. — are on the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot. © Provided by Yahoo! News Rep. Liz Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) The Justice Department will now decide whether to pursue a criminal prosecution.

usr: 1
This is interesting!