Jan 6 panel prepares to pursue criminal charges immediately as Bannon faces summons deadline

Bannon’s attorney wrote a letter to the panel on Wednesday saying his clients would not testify or document until the committee reached an agreement with former President Donald Trump on executive privilege or a court hearing on the matter. But doesn’t pay attention. Attorney Robert Costello wrote, “This is an issue between the committee and President Trump’s counsel and Mr. Bannon is not required to respond at this time.”

If Bannon is a no-show, the committee is expected to immediately begin seeking a referral for criminal contempt after the summons deadline has passed—essentially Bannon’s non-show as the House. -Setting an example of compliance and wants a witness, Sources familiar with the plan told CNN.

While it may take some time before the House sends such a referral to the Justice Department, the committee could take preliminary steps within hours of the panel’s stated deadline — which is Thursday — if Bannon refuses to cooperate. There are, sources said, a growing sense of urgency around underscoring investigations.

CNN reported on Wednesday That the committee is integrated into its plan to seek criminal charges against those who refuse to comply, and lawmakers publicly discussing the option have paid particular attention to Bannon.

Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC on Wednesday: “Some of these witnesses, people like Steve Bannon, who feel publicly about their contempt for Congress, have been away from it for four years. can be.”

Schiff, who is also chairman of the Intelligence Committee, noted that Bannon had Refusing to cooperate with the House’s Russia investigation During the Trump administration because he would “never be held in contempt.”

“They will never be prosecuted by the Trump Justice Department. But those days are over. And I consider it essential not only to our investigation, but I also see it as an enforcement of the rule of law, that Is our democracy recovering,” the California Democrat said.

CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen hit back sharply on Costello’s letter on Wednesday, saying, “It’s just wrong. The letter cited a case that says the ‘president’ can determine executive privileges.” But Trump is no longer the ‘President’.” In the United States, we only have one of them at a time, that’s Joe Biden, and he hasn’t claimed privilege here.”

Three other Trump aides also faced a summons deadline this week. Two of them, Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and former administration official Kash Patel, have been “engaged” with the committee, according to the panel, although it is unclear whether the liaison is for any sort of cooperation. .

the committee was Only recently able to serve a summons to Trump’s former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, A source familiar with the matter told CNN, and his deadline to appear for a statement is likely to be delayed.

Regarding whether Meadows and Patel would appear before the panel for their statements later this week, committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat, said, “My hope is that they will do an act of patriotism and will continue to serve as a member of the committee.” will appear before them, and if they have nothing to hide, there is no reason why they should not show up.”

‘Waiting for Steve Bannon’s statement’

Bannon is still not cooperating and lawmakers took the opportunity to reiterate before Thursday’s deadline that he was obliged to do so.

“Waiting for tomorrow’s statement from Steve Bannon and receiving all testimony and evidence,” Rep. Jamie Ruskin, a Maryland Democrat’s select committee member, said in a tweet on Wednesday. “It is a legal mandate as well as a civil duty to share information about the most widespread violent attack on Congress since the War of 1812.”

In a letter to the committee earlier this month, Bannon’s attorney argued that “executive privileges belong to President Trump” and that “we must accept his directive and honor his call for executive privilege.”

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The letter to Bannon’s legal team says it is up to the courts to decide whether they are ultimately compelled to cooperate – essentially daring the House to prosecute or hold in criminal contempt. .

“As such, until these issues are resolved, we are unable to respond to your request for documents and testimony,” wrote attorney Robert Costello.

The claim that Bannon may be covered by the presidency of a former president is unusual, as Bannon had not been working for the federal government during the period surrounding the January 6 Uprising.

Claims of privilege generally apply to deliberations between officials and government employees close to the president, and Bannon was fired from his role as a White House adviser in 2017.

Many legal experts agree with the committee that Bannon, as a private citizen, would not stand to block a subpoena by claiming executive privilege.

Historical criminal contempt cases

As serious as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House’s choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning shot than a solution. It can take years for Bannon to be held in criminal contempt through a prosecution, and historical criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.

“They’re kind of in a box,” former House General Counsel Stanley Brand said on Wednesday. “Any way they go is a legal Donnybrook, potentially it will take time.”

Congress almost never forces an obstinate witness to testify through prosecution, According to several longtime Washington attorneys familiar with the proceedings of Congress.
An Environmental Protection Agency official in the Reagan administration was the last person to be held for criminal contempt of Congress. It took eight days for the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Justice Department to receive a contempt of the House referral for Rita LaValle in 1983 indict him for being a grand jury. LaValle contested the charges for trial, and a the jury found him not guilty.
Steve Bannon kneeling on January 6th
At least one other criminal contempt proceedings preceded by LaValle, during the anti-Communist McCarthy-era investigations of the 1950s, Was overturned On appeal by the Supreme Court. In recent administrations, the Department of Justice Has refused to prosecute the contempt referral – Although in those situations, Congress has made contemptuous referrals on members of the current presidential administration.

“I’m watching people on TV curiously about this. They’re going to send [Bannon] for criminal contempt. Ok. Fine. “That starts the case,” Brand, who was House general counsel during Lavelle’s contempt proceedings, told CNN. It is not automatic that they are being blamed.”

The criminal contempt approach is also structured as a punishment more than an attempt to compel a witness to speak.

“It’s not like contempt of civil, where you keep the keys to your prison cell and are released” if a witness agrees to testify, Brand said.

Instead, the House essentially loses control of the case as the Justice Department takes over the trial.

“They have no time,” Brand said. “They have to do it before next year, before the election.”

CNN’s Christie Johnson contributed to this report.


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