A congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington DC has set a vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House aide Steve Bannon after he defied the panel’s subpoena.
Rep Bennie Thompson said that the panel will vote on Tuesday to recommend the charges. That would send the recommendation to the full House for a vote.
If the House votes to recommend the contempt charges against Mr Bannon, the Justice Department will ultimately decide whether to prosecute.
The committee had demanded documents and testimony from Mr Bannon, who was in touch with then-president Donald Trump ahead of the violent attack.
“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt,” Mr Thompson said in a statement.
The committee had scheduled a Thursday deposition with Mr Bannon, but his lawyer has said that at Mr Trump’s direction he would not appear.
Two other aides who worked for Mr Trump — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and long-time Trump social media director Dan Scavino — are scheduled for depositions on Friday. It is unclear whether they will appear.
Mr Bannon’s testimony is just one facet of an escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing in.
But his defiance is a crucial moment for the committee, whose members are vowing to restore the binding force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Mr Trump’s time in office.
“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 his statement.
“We reject his position entirely.”
Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol marched up the National Mall after attending at least part of a rally held by Mr Trump, where he repeated his meritless claims of election fraud and implored the crowd to “fight like hell”.
Dozens of police officers were injured as the Trump supporters then broke through windows and doors and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The rioters repeated Mr Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud as they marched through the Capitol, even though the results of the election were confirmed by state officials and upheld by the courts.
Mr Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results.
The committee’s demands of Trump aides and associates are potentially complicated by Mr Trump’s vow to fight their cooperation on grounds of executive privilege.
Mr Biden has formally rejected Mr Trump’s claim of executive privilege surrounding a tranche of documents requested from the former president’s time in the White House, and has set up the documents’ potential release to Congress in mid-November.
White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives in a letter released on Wednesday that Mr Biden believes “an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States”.