The Jan. 6 House select committee
will meet this evening (Tuesday 10/19) to consider holding just voted unanimously to ask the House to hold former Trump White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol shot down a last-minute request from former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon to delay a scheduled vote to refer him for prosecution based on a lawsuit filed Monday by President Trump. (Chairman Bennie G. Thompson’s statement of cooperation of witness Steve Bannon here.)
- He was fully aware of pending chaos on Jan. 6. He told listeners to his radio show on Jan. 5: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” And again on the morning of Jan. 6 he warned: “Today’s not just a rally. At one o’clock that starts and there’s going to be some pretty controversial things going on.”
- Bannon was no longer part of the White House staff since being fired in 2017 and therefore is in no way protected by “executive privilege.
- By refusing to testify, Bannon’s breaking federal law. 18 U.S. Code Section 1505 state that whoever “influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law” by government departments, agencies, and committees is subject to a fine and five years in prison.
What happens after now?
“The committee’s report is then referred to the House for a vote. If the vote succeeds, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. Under law, this certification then requires the United States attorney to “bring the matter before the grand jury for its action,” but the Justice Department will also makes its own determinations for prosecuting. Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment.”
Then other witnesses will see that they’ll face consequences and the committee can get on with their business.
Action #1 & #2 are COMPLETED:
The House and the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have done their work. Now it’s up to Attorney General Garland.
Action #3: Email Attorney General Merrick Garland
Minimal script to Attorney General Merrick Garland: I’m writing to ask that you prosecute criminal contempt charges against Steve Bannon to the full extent of the law. These are extraordinary times. Never before has America witnessed a president refuse to concede office peacefully. Never before have insurrectionists forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, threatening legislators, harming police officers, and damaging our seat of government. What happened on Jan. 6 was an organized crime against democracy, and Bannon’s public statements indicate that he was a witness to the planning of it, and possibly an active co-conspirator.
Beyond making laws, Congress has an informing function and a responsibility to determine abuses of and against our government. It cannot perform this duty without the ability to compel people to testify and turn over documents. Otherwise, it would only have access to information that those such as Bannon choose to turn over, allowing corruption to flourish. We would never accept those sorts of limitations on information in judicial proceedings — and even less should we accept them in congressional proceedings, where the interests of the entire nation are implicated.
As legal scholar James Landis wrote in 1926, “To deny Congress power to acquaint itself with facts is equivalent to requiring it to prescribe remedies in darkness.” Mr. Bannon’s refusal to cooperate with the select committee is an additional crime against our country and must have serious consequences, including imprisonment under 2 U.S. Code §§ 192 -194 & 18 U.S. Code Section 1505. The only privilege he should claim in this whole sorry affair is his fervent belief that he is above the law of a nation he openly despises.
Do not back down from this fight, Attorney General Garland. This man and his compatriots are more dangerous to the continuation of our country as a functional democracy than any foreign agent or government. Stopping them must be your highest obligation.
October 18, 2021 (Monday)
“Today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol recommended that the House of Representatives find Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon in contempt of Congress. Bannon is refusing to cooperate with a subpoena for documents and testimony about the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection. Now the House will take up the question of contempt.
The committee report is a lot more interesting than that topline suggests (political historian here: although people tend to watch what happens before the TV cameras, committee reports are often where the action is).
The report starts by stating that the attempt of “a violent mob” to “halt the lawful counting of electoral votes and reverse the results of the 2020 election” was, according to “the words of many of those who participated in the violence, …a direct response to false statements by then-President Donald J. Trump—beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through January 6, 2021—that the 2020 election had been stolen by corrupted voting machines, widespread fraud, and otherwise.”
The committee is laying the events of January 6 on Trump.
Congress established the committee, the report says, “to identify how the events of January 6th were planned, what actions and statements motivated and contributed to the attack on the Capitol, how the violent riot that day was coordinated with a political and public relations strategy to reverse the election outcome, and why Capitol security was insufficient to address what occurred.”
The committee is saying that the riot was coordinated ahead of time, and it appears to suggest that Capitol security was compromised.
Then the report explains why Bannon is an important witness. Its account of his actions in that crisis is an illuminating roundup of what we have seen in pieces in many other places. It concludes that Bannon knew specifically about the events of January 6 ahead of time.
On his January 5 podcasts, for example, he said: “It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen. OK, it’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is, strap in. [. . .] You made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day. So strap in. Let’s get ready.”
“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. [. . .] So many people said, ‘Man, if I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.’ Well, this is your time in history.”
Bannon said that the country was facing a ‘‘constitutional crisis’’ and ‘‘that crisis is about to go up about five orders of magnitude tomorrow.’’
And: “It’s all converging, and now we’re on the point of attack tomorrow.”
So, the committee report suggests there was high-level planning for the January 6 insurrection. And it goes on: The report says that it appears Bannon joined others eager to overturn the election “who gathered at the Willard Hotel, two blocks from the White House, on the days surrounding the January 6th attack…. The group that assembled at the Willard Hotel is reported to have included members of the Trump campaign’s legal team (including Rudolph Giuliani and John Eastman), several prominent proponents of false election fraud claims that had been promoted by Mr. Trump (e.g., Russell Ramsland, Jr. and Boris Epshteyn), as well as Roger Stone, who left the hotel with Oath Keeper bodyguards, and campaign spokesman Jason Miller.”
Then the report blows up the idea that Bannon had an excuse not to testify.
Bannon refused to honor the subpoena because he claimed that Trump was going to invoke executive privilege, but “Trump has had no communication with the Select Committee.” “This third-hand, non-specific assertion of privilege, without any description of the documents or testimony over which privilege is claimed, is insufficient to activate a claim of executive privilege,” it says. In any case, as a private citizen at the time of the events in question, Bannon would not be covered by executive privilege anyway.
This is a powerful document, laying out the direction the committee report is likely to go.
Today, former president Donald Trump did, in fact, invoke executive privilege…but not to cover Bannon.
He sued Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), the chair of the House Select Committee; the committee itself; the national archivist, David S. Ferriero; and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to try to prevent the National Archives from releasing records from the January 6 insurrection to the House committee investigating it.
The suit alleges that the investigation is a “fishing expedition” designed “to harass President Trump and senior members of his administration (among others) by sending an illegal, unfounded, and overbroad records request to the Archivist of the United States.” It relies on executive privilege and the argument that there is no legitimate legislative reason for Congress to have access to the records it wants to see.
There are some oddities in this lawsuit. First off, executive privilege covers current presidents, not past ones, and President Biden has waived the privilege for these documents, saying it would not be “in the best interests of the United States.” White House counsel Dana Remus wrote: “These are unique and extraordinary circumstances. Congress is examining an assault on our Constitution and democratic institutions provoked and fanned by those sworn to protect them, and the conduct under investigation extends far beyond typical deliberations concerning the proper discharge of the President’s constitutional responsibilities.” So a former president is asking a court to overrule a current president.
Second, the lawsuit covers only the material at NARA and none of the other requests the committee has made. This is for the obvious reason that executive privilege can’t cover things outside the scope of official business—which is archived at NARA—but since there is almost certainly a great deal of overlap in the material requested from different parties, this lawsuit seems likely to be designed not to hide evidence so much as to gum up the works. If the committee can be held at bay until after the 2022 election, a Republican victory might end its investigation.
Third, the lawyer bringing the lawsuit is Jesse R. Binnall, a Trump loyalist associated with Trump’s former lawyer Sidney Powell, who is currently being sued for $1.3 billion by the voting technology company she accused of stealing the 2020 election. Binnall is not a top-of-the-line attorney.
In response to the lawsuit, committee chair Thompson and Vice Chair Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) issued a statement noting that “the former President’s clear objective”—Trump’s supporters never use the word “former” to refer to him—“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…. 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 Select Committee’s authority to seek these records is clear. 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.”