The US House of Representatives on Thursday held longtime aide and former President Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from a committee investigating the violent January 6 Capitol riots. Voted for

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In a rare show of bipartisanship on the floor of the House, the Democratic chair of the committee, Mississippi Representative Benny Thompson, led a floor debate with Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of the two Republicans on the panel. Nevertheless, the vote was 229–202, with most GOP lawmakers voting “no”, despite possible consequences for Congress if witnesses are allowed to ignore its demands.

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January 6 The House Select Committee has vowed to take swift and coercive steps to punish anyone who does not cooperate with the investigation. But it is up to the Justice Department, which has a final decision on the matter.

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While the House vote may be successful, there is still considerable uncertainty about whether the Justice Department will prosecute Bannon despite Democratic demands for action.

If Bannon is convicted of misdemeanor, he could face a fine of $100,000 and up to one year in prison.

The outcome determines not only the effectiveness of the House investigation but also the strength of Congress’s power to summon witnesses and seek information – factors that will certainly weigh on justice officials as they determine whether to proceed. Yes or No.

FILE – Steve Bannon, former US President Donald Trump political strategist, departs from federal court on August 20, 2020 in New York, US. Photographer: Jenna Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While the department has historically been reluctant to use its prosecutor power against witnesses found in contempt of Congress, the circumstances are extraordinary as lawmakers investigate the worst attack on the US Capitol in two centuries.

The January 6 panel voted on Tuesday evening to recommend contempt charges against Bannon, citing reports that he had spoken with Trump before the rebellion sparked protests that day and predicted that There will be unrest. Members said Bannon was alone in defying his summons altogether, while more than a dozen other witnesses were speaking to at least the panel.

Following a House vote on Thursday to hold Bannon on a contempt case, the case is to be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington to present the case to a grand jury for possible criminal charges. It will be up to the prosecutors.

The office is run by Channing Phillips, an acting U.S. attorney who previously held the position in the Obama administration. Another lawyer, Matt Graves, has been nominated for the position, but his nomination is pending in the Senate.

The Justice Department has been wary of prosecuting contempt of Congress in the past, especially when the White House and the House of Representatives are controlled by opposing political parties. During the Obama administration, the department declined to prosecute then-Attorney General Eric Holder and former IRS officer Lois Lerner after contempt referrals from the Republican-led House. And George W. Bush’s Justice Department declined to indict Harriet Myers after a former White House attorney defied a subpoena in the Democratic investigation into the mass shootings of United States lawyers.

In addition, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has said in a number of opinions—including Anne Gorsuch, the mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in the 1980s, who in her capacity as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, turned over the documents. – that the Justice Department has the discretion when to prosecute for contempt even if a referral is received from the House.

Still, Bannon’s case is different, because Democrats hold both Congress and the White House — and because the committee is investigating the violent rebellion of Trump supporters, who beat law enforcement officers, broke into the Capitol, and Biden’s victory. Authentication has been interrupted.

“What we’re talking about is a massive, violent attack on American democracy,” said Maryland Rep. Jamie Ruskin, a member of the panel.

Several rioters who stormed the Capitol, taking part in at least part of the then-Trump rally, marched to the National Mall, where they repeated their baseless claims of election fraud and called on the crowd to “fight like hell”. inspired. Dozens of police officers were injured as Trump supporters overwhelmed them and smashed windows and doors to obstruct the certification of Biden’s victory.

Rioters repeated Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud as he marched through the Capitol, even as the election results were confirmed by state officials, upheld by the courts, and even Trump’s own Also rejected by the Attorney General.

More than 600 people faced charges in the January 6 attack. In the days following the attack, scores of rioters pretended to be involved in social media posts bragging about their ability to get inside the Capitol. But then many people realized that it could be used as evidence and started removing it.

The investigative panel said it believed Bannon had “specific knowledge of the events that occurred on January 6. Members of the selection committee pointed to Bannon’s January 5 podcast where he said “everything is going to end tomorrow.”

In short, Mr. Bannon played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people deserves to hear his direct testimony about his actions, a report said. “Mr Bannon’s testimony and submission of documents are critical to the selection committee’s investigation.”

Even if the Justice Department decides to prosecute, the case could take years to come into play — potentially leading to the 2022 election when Republicans can win control of the House and end the investigation. can.

There is still considerable uncertainty about whether the department will prosecute, despite Democratic demands for action. It is a decision that will determine not only the effectiveness of the House investigation but also the strength of Congress’s power to call witnesses and seek information.

While the department has historically been reluctant to use its prosecutor power against witnesses found in contempt of Congress, the circumstances are extraordinary as lawmakers investigate the worst attack on the US Capitol in two centuries.

Attorney General Merrick Garland gave no indication during Thursday’s House hearing.

“If the House of Representatives votes to refer a charge of contempt, the Department of Justice will do what it always does in such circumstances. It will apply the facts and the law and make a decision consistent with the principles of the prosecution,” he said. . said.

Democrats are pressing to take the case to justice, arguing that nothing less than democracy is in line.

“The stakes are huge,” Maryland Representative Jamie Ruskin said in an interview with the Associated Press.

If the Justice Department does not prosecute, the House has other options, including a civil lawsuit. It may take years but Bannon and any other witnesses will be forced to defend themselves in court.

Another option for Congress would be to try to imprison disobedient witnesses – an unlikely, if not outlandish, scenario. Called “implicit contempt”, the process was used in the country’s early years, but has not been employed in nearly a century.

The House Rules Committee hearing, held to set the parameters of Thursday’s debate, saw lingering acrimony over the rebellion, and Bannon subpoena, on Wednesday. Under intense questioning from Ruskin, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, a Republican who defended Trump and opposed the Bannon contempt effort, said he acknowledged Biden is president, but would not say Biden won the election. Went.

“I know it might work on Steve Bannon’s podcast, but it won’t work on the rules committee of the United States House of Representatives, Mr. Getz. I’m sorry,” Ruskin said.

This was reported from Cincinnati.