US House contempt of Trump ally Bannon, calls for prosecution

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WASHINGTON, Oct.21 (Reuters) – Donald Trump’s longtime ally Steve Bannon could face criminal charges for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into the deadly Jan.6 attack on the State Capitol -United after the House of Representatives voted on Thursday to condemn him in contempt of Congress. .

The Democratic-led chamber voted 229 to 202, with nine Republicans joining Democrats in recommending the charges against Bannon, who served as chief strategist for the former Republican president.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will make the final decision on whether or not to prosecute.

Bannon refused to comply with subpoenas from the Jan.6 select committee requesting documents and testimony, citing Trump’s insistence – disputed by some legal scholars – that his communications are protected by the legal doctrine of executive privilege .

“What kind of precedent would it set for the House of Representatives if we allowed a witness to ignore us completely without incurring any consequences?” Democrat Bennie Thompson, chairman of the select committee, said during the debate ahead of the vote.

The select committee voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of the charges.

THREAT OF PRISON TIME

The Democratic-led panel hopes the threat of jail time – contempt of Congress carries a sentence of up to one year in prison and $ 100,000 in fines – will encourage cooperation from the 18 other Trump aides and rally planners who have also been subpoenaed.

Garland has yet to say how the ministry will respond. He told a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday that the department would “apply the facts and the law” and make decisions “in accordance with the principles of prosecution.”

Most of Trump’s Republican colleagues in Congress have opposed the creation of an independent commission or select committee to investigate the events surrounding January 6. That day, thousands of Trump supporters descended on Capitol Hill after urging them in a fiery speech to protest his defeat by the Democrat. Joe Biden in a November 2020 election that Trump falsely claims was robbed.

Only two Republicans – Reps Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – are on the nine-member select committee.

They were joined by seven other Republicans in supporting the contempt of the House resolution. Representative Greg Pence, whose brother, former Vice President Mike Pence, was forced to flee the crowd on January 6, did not vote.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon leaves Manhattan Federal Court following his arraignment hearing for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering ‘argent, in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York, New York, United States, August 20, 2020. REUTERS / André Kelly

A spokeswoman later said Pence had a family medical emergency and reportedly voted no.

Most Republicans who voted to despise Bannon also voted earlier this year to impeach Trump in the wake of the January 6 riots.

The Contempt of Congress Act, passed in 1857, states that the Department of Justice has a duty to bring a citation for contempt of the House before a grand jury.

But the Justice Department has historically said it makes the ultimate decision whether or not to prosecute people who defy congressional subpoenas. The last successful contempt of Congress prosecution dates back to 1974 when a judge convicted Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy.

Arguing against the resolution in the House, Republican Representative Jim Banks accused the committee of politically motivated to prosecute Bannon, who played a major role in Trump’s election victory in 2016.

“Steve Bannon was a private citizen before, after and during January 6. So why is the select committee interested in Steve Bannon? It’s simple. He’s a bogeyman from the Democratic Party,” he said said Banks.

Four people died on the day of the assault and a Capitol policeman died the next day after being injured while defending the seat of government. Hundreds of police officers were injured and four have since committed suicide.

PLANNED “EXTREME EVENTS”

The select committee argued that Bannon had made statements suggesting he was aware in advance of the “extreme events” that would take place on January 6, when Congress was to certify Biden as the winner of the presidential election.

Bannon said in a Jan. 5 podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The next day, crowds of Trump supporters, many chanting “Stop the Steal” and “Hang Mike Pence,” attacked the Capitol as Vice President Pence and lawmakers gathered to certify the election.

“Mr. Bannon’s own public statements are clear: he knew what was going to happen before it happened… The American people deserve to know what they knew and what they did,” Cheney said, vice-chairman of the select committee, said during the debate.

The assault forced members of Congress, staff and journalists to flee as crowds rampaged through the building, vandalizing offices and hallways, smashing windows and stealing computers and other equipment.

Trump continued to falsely insist that his defeat was the result of fraud. Several courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s own administration have dismissed this claim.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Additional reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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