House Votes to Hold Steve Bannon in Contempt of Congress
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House of Representatives Votes to Hold Steve Bannon in Contempt of Congress for Defying Jan. 6 Subpoena

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: Former White House senior counselor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon speaks to members of the media as he leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse after he testified at the Roger Stone trial November 8, 2019 in Washington, DC. Stone has been charged with lying to Congress and witness tampering. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, setting the stage for a referral to the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia for possible prosecution.

“The Select Committee told Mr. Bannon—several times—that he would face these consequences if he didn’t change course,” the committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss), said in remarks delivered in the House. “Well, he didn’t change course, and his actions have brought us to this point.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the head of the House Committee on Intelligence, echoed those remarks after the vote.

“Today, the House found Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the head of the House Committee on Intelligence, tweeted. “That charge will now be sent to the Justice Department for prosecution.”

Several Republican representatives crossed party lines to join the Democrats, outside the expected defections from the Jan. 6 Committee’s Vice Chair Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger from Illinois. Other GOP members voting in favor of the measure include Reps. Peter Meijer of Michigan,  Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Fred Upton of Michigan,  John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington State, and Nancy Mace of North Carolina also voted in favor, according to CNN.

That represented more bipartisan agreement than was seen on Wednesday before the House Rules Committee, which marked up the contempt report by a party line vote of 9-4.

During those proceedings, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) — the lead manager during former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment — grilled Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Jim Jordan of Ohio to recognize President Joe Biden’s electoral victory in 2020.

As Gaetz tried to sow doubt over the judiciary’s emphatic rejection of Trump’s fraud claims, Raskin shot back: “That might work on Steve Bannon’s podcast, but that’s not going to work in the Rules Committee of the United States House of Representatives.”

Raskin also pressed the Republican lawmakers on their previous support of enforcing congressional subpoenas during the Fast & Furious scandal involving former attorney general Eric Holder—and vocal opposition of doing the same when it came to Bannon.

Thursday’s vote underscores the brisk pace with which the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack has acted to enforce their subpoena. The Committee announced their plans to seek contempt last week, voted for it on Tuesday, marked it up and Wednesday before passing it today.

“We won’t be deterred,” Thompson declared on Tuesday. “We won’t be distracted. We won’t be delayed.”

At this point, the matter may be beyond the committee’s control, as Attorney General Merrick Garland‘s Justice Department has wide latitude on whether or not to bring charges. According to the relevant statute, that prosecutor’s office would have the “duty” to “bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.”

Despite the seemingly mandatory language, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Justice Department historically viewed such a referral as advisory.

“It remains unclear whether the ‘duty’ of the U.S. Attorney to present the contempt to the grand jury is mandatory or discretionary,” the agency’s 2017 report states.

Trump also sued the committee to block a separate request for documents to the National Archives and Records Administration, which the committee’s Chairman Thompson called “irrelevant” to Bannon’s subpoena. Bannon briefly served as Trump’s chief strategist and is now a podcaster without any role in the U.S. government. He used to be a criminal defendant in a million-dollar alleged fraud involving purported plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but Trump pardoned him during the twilight of his presidency.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on MSNBC, BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks.