Jan. 6 investigative committee releases criminal contempt report detailing how Steve Bannon escaped subpoena
This report is the subject of a business meeting on Tuesday to be held by the committee, which marks the first step in a series of steps that must be taken to move forward with Bannon’s detention for criminal contempt. for not having complied with the summons.
The criminal contempt report exposes all correspondence between the committee and Bannon, revealing new details about what happened on the day of his scheduled deposition and making his full subpoena available to the public for the first time.
Throughout the report, the committee explains why Bannon’s claim for executive privilege does not stand up and sets out the legal argument why he must comply with the summons.
“Mr. Bannon did not rely on any legal authority to support his refusal to comply in any way with the subpoena,” the report said.
The committee begins by noting that executive privilege has not been formally invoked and that there has been no communication with Trump regarding its invocation.
“The select committee has not received any formal invocation of executive privilege by the president, former president or any other employee of the executive,” the report said.
The committee also argues that Bannon was a private citizen during the period in which he is seeking information. “The law is clear,” the report said, “that executive privilege does not extend to discussions between the president and private citizens concerning non-governmental affairs or between private citizens.”
The report adds that “at no time during the period under investigation by the select committee has Mr. Bannon been a government employee, let alone a key White House adviser in the president’s office.”
The committee also argues that much of what it expects from Bannon does not involve his conversations with Trump and therefore should not be protected.
subpoena released in full
The report provides a detailed account of the select committee’s requests for documents and communications dating from April 1, 2020.
The subpoena lists 17 key areas of investigation and specifically orders Bannon to produce all permits and documents related to planning, funding, goals and communications for the Jan. 6 pro-Trump rally on the grounds of the National Complex. Mall and Capitol.
The requested documents include correspondence with former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn; copies of his podcasts in which he discusses false allegations of electoral fraud or the rally; communications with Trump regarding January 6 and – more specifically – communications the two may have had on December 30; and communications with key Trump allies such as John Eastman, Jenna Ellis, Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and Rudy Giuliani.
The committee asks Bannon to provide all communication with far-right groups Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, as well as InfoWars creator Alex Jones.
On October 7, seven hours after Bannon was due to provide documents to the committee, the report states that Bannon’s attorney, Robert J. Costello, sent a letter to the committee explaining that his client was refusing to comply with the subpoena. committee. Costello cited a letter from Trump’s attorney, Justin Clark, who ordered Bannon not to comply with the subpoena until an executive privilege agreement was reached.
“The two-page letter contained only conclusive statements, no legal analysis, and about half of them purported to quote the October 6, 2021 letter from Mr. Trump’s attorney,” the contempt report reads.
On October 13, the report says committee staff contacted Costello by email to discuss the logistics of Bannon’s deposition the next day. An hour later, staff and Costello spoke by phone and Costello informed the committee – ahead of the letter that was made public – that his client would not be appearing for a deposition.
Costello’s letter to the panel said his client would not provide testimony or documents until the committee reaches an agreement with Trump on executive privilege or a court has ruled on the matter.
The report addresses the letter by saying, “Mr. Costello’s October 13 letter simply states that former President Trump’s attorney had informed him that“ President Trump is exercising his executive privilege. ”This assertion of privilege third-hand, non-specific, without any description of the documents or testimony on which the privilege is claimed, is insufficient to activate a claim for executive privilege. “
On October 14, the day of Bannon’s scheduled deposition, staff and committee members, including Representative Adam Schiff and Senior Investigative Advisor Sean Tonolli, met at 10 a.m. and adjourned six minutes later when ‘it was clear that Bannon was not going to appear. The report includes a transcript of that short meeting, in which Tonolli recaps correspondence with Bannon up to that point.
On October 15, according to the report, committee chair Bennie Thompson sent a letter to Costello informing him that the committee was planning to move forward with a criminal contempt referral, that Bannon does not have immunity. to testify and that Bannon had not attempted to provide an explanation for his refusal to provide documents unrelated to his communications with Trump.
If the report is adopted in committee on Tuesday, then it is referred to the House. If the vote is successful, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. By law, this certification then requires the United States attorney to “take the case to the grand jury for its action,” but the Department of Justice will also make its own decisions about whether to prosecute.
Anyone found guilty of contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that can lead to a fine and between one and 12 months in prison. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to prison terms.
Serious as a referral for criminal contempt may seem, the House’s choice to use the Department of Justice may be more of a wake-up call than a solution. Holding Bannon for criminal contempt through a lawsuit could take years, and historic cases of criminal contempt have been derailed with appeals and acquittals.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria of Virginia, who is one of the lawmakers on the committee, stressed that the ultimate goal of prosecuting criminal contempt with Bannon is to have him testify.
“Our goal is to get him to testify. I think that will send a strong message that there are consequences of not testifying,” Luria told CNN on Friday. “His testimony is very important to the committee.
Last week, Thompson detailed the panel’s intention to prosecute criminal contempt of Bannon.
“Mr. Bannon refused to cooperate with the select committee and instead hides behind the former president’s insufficient, general and vague statements about the privileges he claimed to invoke,” the Mississippi Democrat said in a statement Thursday. .
This story has been updated with additional details from the report.