The head of the House panel investigating Jan. 6, Bennie Thompson, announced Thursday that he has scheduled a vote to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress.
On Tuesday, the select committee will vote on a report making the case that Bannon is in contempt of Congress. That document will include language of a contempt resolution that could come to the House floor.
It will also detail the committee’s efforts to secure Bannon’s cooperation with its subpoena and his refusal to cooperate with the probe.
Investigators announced subpoenas of Bannon and three other former Trump administration aides on Sept. 23. Trump last week told all four men to stiff-arm the committee, as POLITICO first reported, but the committee has said two of those ex-aides, Kash Patel and Mark Meadows, are engaging with investigators. Bannon’s lawyer, however, has told the committee he will not comply with the subpoena.
Forcing him to comply will be a major test for the committee, signaling to the scores of other people subpoenaed just how much pressure investigators will exert to secure cooperation.
The outcome of the committee’s vote on holding Bannon in contempt is all but a foregone conclusion. If the panel approves holding him in contempt, the committee would send the resolution to the House floor for another vote.
If the full House, slated to reconvene next week, votes to hold Bannon in contempt — which is also all but certain, as Democrats have a slim majority — then the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney for Washington D.C. for criminal prosecution.
That U.S. Attorney, Channing Phillips, is a career official. Biden has nominated a political appointee for the role, Matthew Graves, but the Senate has not yet confirmed him.
If the Justice Department prosecutes Bannon and secures his conviction, he would face up to a year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. He has the option to appeal, and the courts would determine whether to delay penalties during the appeals process.
Despite the tricky and unpredictable process, committee members say they hope the threat of criminal charges pressures witnesses to cooperate, rather than go through a costly and onerous legal process. Those threats have worked to compel cooperation in previous congressional inquiries, and witnesses rarely attempt to see the entire criminal proceedings through.
But the Jan 6 committee also faces a tight deadline, as it seeks to compile a full report on the attack by the spring.