In a letter sent to Bannon Sept. 23, the committee said it has reason to believe the former White House strategist has relevant information on “important activities that led to and informed” the Jan. 6 insurrection, including his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
Bannon was directed to produce documents by Oct. 7 and appear for a deposition a week later but missed those deadlines.
“The expectation of this Committee is that all witnesses will cooperate with our investigation. Witnesses who have been subpoenaed have a legal obligation to do so,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, said in a statement before Tuesday’s vote. “And when you think about what we’re investigating — a violent attack on the seat of our democracy perpetrated by fellow citizens, on our Constitution, an attempt to stop the certification of an election — it’s shocking to me, shocking, that anyone would not do everything in their power to assist our investigation.”
After all nine committee members voted in favor of criminal contempt of Congress charges for Bannon, a full House vote is scheduled for Thursday. If certified, the recommendation for charges will be sent to the Justice Department.
“The Department of Justice, as with all criminal referrals, will evaluate the matter based on the facts and the law, consistent with the principles of federal prosecution,” Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, told The New York Times on Tuesday.
Bannon is one of four witnesses in former President Donald Trump‘s inner circle who were subpoenaed by the panel, which compelled them to turn over documents and give testimony to assist in the investigation.
“The rule of law remains under attack right now. If there’s no accountability for these abuses — if there are different sets of rules for different types of people — then our democracy is in serious trouble,” Thompson said Tuesday. “I won’t allow further harm through the rule of law in the course of our work. Mr. Bannon will comply with our investigation or he will face the consequences.”
After Trump indicated he would assert executive privilege and urged witnesses not to comply in the investigation, President Joe Biden determined that his assertion is not in the best interest of the country and instructed the National Archives to turn over documents related to the investigation.
On Tuesday, Trump sued the committee and the National Archives, demanding that requests for information be invalidated or that “at a minimum” Trump be allowed to “conduct a full privilege review of all request materials.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Republican who voted to impeach the President Trump following the Jan. 6 attack, said that the claims of privilege appear to reveal “that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th.”
“And we will get to the bottom of that,” she added.
Cheney also urged fellow Republicans to “please consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong.”
“Almost every one of my colleagues knows in your hearts that what happened on January 6th was profoundly wrong,” she also said. “You all know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to overturn the election.”
It’s been almost 40 years since anyone was indicted for criminal contempt of Congress.
“The process we’ve begun tonight is a grave one. It seldom happens, and we’d rather avoid it altogether,” Thompson said Tuesday. “But it is not reserved just for Steve Bannon. If other witnesses defy this Committee — if they fail to cooperate — we will be back in this room, with a new report, with the names of whoever else mistakenly believes that they are above the law.”