Jan. 6 committee will move to hold former Trump aide Bannon in criminal contempt for not complying with subpoena

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol announced on Thursday that it will move to hold Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt for not complying with its subpoena.

Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) said the panel will meet Tuesday when the House returns to Washington to vote to adopt a contempt report.

“The Select Committee will use every tool at its disposal to get the information it seeks, and witnesses who try to stonewall the Select Committee will not succeed,” Thompson said in a statement.

The committee has opted to give other former Trump officials more time to comply with its subpoenas.

Mark Meadows and Kash Patel were both scheduled to appear before the committee by the end of this week for closed door interviews and are now expected to be provided an extension or continuance, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced.

Because service of Dan Scavino’s subpoena was delayed, the committee has postponed his scheduled deposition this week, according to a select committee aide.

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All three men are considered key witnesses by panel members as they investigate the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn election results and interfere with the transfer of power. The decision to give the three men more time to comply with subpoenas sent out last month indicates at least a minimal level of cooperation between the committee and two of Trump’s former advisers.

Meadows served as former president Donald Trump’s chief of staff at the end of his administration; Scavino served as his deputy chief of staff and Patel served as chief of staff to then-acting Defense secretary Christopher Miller on Jan. 6.

Bannon was not part of the administration on Jan. 6. He left his job as a top White House adviser to Trump in 2017. Several legal experts questioned whether executive privilege could shield Bannon from responding to requests for information about what happened during a period when he was not a White House employee.

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Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, wrote Thompson on Wednesday that his client would not be providing information requested by the committee citing ongoing objections — and instructions — from Trump’s lawyer.

Lawmakers who sit on the panel — seven Democrats, two Republicans, all appointed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — said they are prepared to move quickly to pursue criminal contempt charges against witnesses like Bannon.

The lawmakers have argued this legal tool, which wasn’t considered a realistic option for House Democrats to use while Trump was in office, can help them gain information quickly as they face pressure to make progress on their investigation.

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After a committee approves a contempt charge, the House must then vote on the matter. Once passed, the contempt referral would then be sent to the Justice Department. It would then be up to the Biden administration — namely, Attorney General Merrick Garland — to decide whether to criminally prosecute an individual for failing to comply with the congressional subpoena.

A successful contempt prosecution could lead to Bannon’s incarceration, a fine, or both. He could face up to $100,000 in fines and a one-year sentence in federal prison. Still, a conviction on this misdemeanor offense may not necessarily result in the committee receiving the information it wants and a criminal prosecution could also take years.

House Democrats were often frustrated in their attempts to conduct oversight of the Trump administration during the last Congress due to officials’ decisions not to cooperate, which led to lengthy legal battles.

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But members of the select committee have argued that the situation is different now with Trump out of office, saying they expect the Biden Justice Department to assist their efforts to investigate the most serious attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812.

The administration has yet to comment on how it would handle a criminal contempt referall, but the White House has already taken steps to help the committee by deciding not to stand in the way of requests for information it is seeking from the National Archives on Trump and his aides.

In an Oct. 8 letter to David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, White House counsel Dana A. Remus said Biden did not support Trump’s assertion of executive privilege to block the release of information being sought by the committee.

“In light of the urgency of the Select Committee’s need for the information, the President further instructs you to provide those pages 30 days after your notification to the former President, absent any intervening court order,” she wrote.

Mariana Alfaro contributed to this story.