By MARY CLARE JALONICK, ERIC TUCKER, JILL COLVIN and MICHELLE R. SMITH
WASHINGTON (AP) – A congressional committee investigating the Jan.6 Capitol uprising has put in place a vote to recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House aide Steve Bannon after defying the subpoena from the panel Thursday.
Panel chair, Representative Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Said the committee would vote next week to recommend the charges. This would send the recommendation to the entire House for a vote.
If the House votes to recommend the contempt charges against Bannon, the Justice Department will ultimately decide whether to prosecute. The committee had demanded documents and testimony from Bannon, who was in contact with President Donald Trump before the violent attack.
“The select committee will not tolerate contempt for our subpoenas, so we must move forward with procedures to remove Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt,” Thompson said in a statement.
The committee had scheduled a deposition Thursday with Bannon, but his lawyer said that at Trump’s request, he would not appear. Bannon also failed to provide documents to the panel before the deadline last week.
A second witness called to testify on Thursday, former Defense Ministry official Kashyap Patel, is also not appearing, according to two people familiar with the confidential negotiations who were granted anonymity to discuss them. But Patel still engages with the committee, the people said, and the committee is not pursuing contempt charges against him.
Two other aides who worked for Trump – former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump social media director Dan Scavino – are due to give evidence on Friday. It is not known if they will appear. Like Patel, Meadows speaks to the committee.
Bannon’s testimony is just one facet of a growing congressional investigation, with 19 subpoenas issued to date and thousands of pages of documents pouring in. But his challenge is a crucial development for the committee, whose members are committed to restoring the binding force of congressional subpoenas. after being regularly flouted during Trump’s tenure.
“Sir. Bannon refused to cooperate with the select committee and instead hides behind the former president’s insufficient, general and vague statements regarding the privileges he purported to invoke,” said Representative Thompson in his statement. ” We reject his position entirely. “
Other witnesses are cooperating, including some who organized or moderated the Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House that preceded the violent riot. The committee summoned 11 rally organizers and gave them a deadline on Wednesday to hand over the documents and files. They were also invited to appear for scheduled depositions.
Among those who responded was Lyndon Brentnall, whose company was hired to provide security for the Ellipse events that day. “All documents and communications requested by the summons have been handed over,” he told The Associated Press.
Brentnall previously said: “As far as we are concerned, we provided security at a legally authorized event in conjunction with the US Secret Service and the park police.”
Two longtime members of the Trump campaign and the White House, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, who were on the Jan.6 rally permit as “operations manager for planning and guidance” and “responsible for operations. operations for logistics and communications ”, have also provided documents or are considering doing so.
It is still unclear whether the other people subpoenaed intend to cooperate. A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment Wednesday on the responses it received and the number of 11 complying.
Two other rally organizers, Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, along with their “Stop the Steal” organization, have also been subpoenaed for documents, which are expected on October 21.
Many rioters who stormed the Capitol on Jan.6 marched up the National Mall after attending at least part of Trump’s rally, where he repeated his baseless claims of voter fraud and begged the crowd to ” fight like hell ”. Dozens of police officers were injured as Trump supporters then smashed windows and doors and disrupted President Joe Biden’s certification of victory.
The rioters repeated Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud as they marched on Capitol Hill, even though the election results were confirmed by state officials and confirmed by the courts. Trump’s own attorney general William Barr had said the Justice Department found no evidence of widespread fraud that could have overturned the results.
Also on Wednesday, the panel issued a subpoena to a former Justice Department lawyer who has positioned himself as Trump’s ally and helped the Republican president challenge the 2020 election results.
Jeffrey Clark’s requests for documents and testimony reflect the committee’s efforts to investigate not only the insurgency, but also the uproar that rocked the Justice Department in the weeks leading up to it as Trump and his allies relied on government lawyers to advance its electoral demands.
Clark, deputy attorney general in the Trump administration, has become a central figure. A Senate committee report released last week showed he had championed Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results and as a result clashed with Justice Department superiors who resisted the pressure , culminating in a dramatic White House meeting in which Trump brooded over Clark’s rise to attorney general.
The committee’s demands on Trump associates and associates are potentially complicated by Trump’s vow to fight their cooperation for reasons of executive privilege.
Biden officially rejected Trump’s claim of executive privilege over a slice of documents requested during the former president’s time in the White House, and set up the potential disclosure of the documents to Congress in mid-November. White House attorney Dana Remus wrote to the National Archives in a letter released Wednesday that Biden believed “an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interest of the United States.”
Colvin reported from New York and Smith from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press editors Farnoush Amiri and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.