House votes to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt

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The House has voted to hold Steve Bannon, a longtime ally and ally of former President Donald Trump, in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from a committee investigating the violent January 6 Capitol uprising.

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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. Still, the vote on Thursday was 229-202, but with nine GOP lawmakers who voted saying “no.”

The House vote sends the case to the US Attorney’s office in Washington, where it will now be up to prosecutors in that office to present the case to a grand jury for potential criminal charges. It is still uncertain whether they will pursue the case – Attorney General Merrick Garland will only say at a House hearing on Thursday that he plans to “make a decision consistent with the principles of the prosecution.”


The partisan division over Bannon’s summons — and over committee investigations in general — symbolizes the raw tension that continues to grip Congress nine months after the Capitol attack.

Democrats have vowed to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the attack in which hundreds of Trump supporters overtook police, injured dozens of officers and hampered the election count that testified to President Joe Biden’s November victory. Members of the panel say they will take swift and coercive measures to punish those who do not cooperate with the investigation.

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“We won’t let anyone derail our work because our work is so important,” Thompson said before the vote.

Republicans call it a “witch hunt,” say it’s a waste of time and argue that Congress should focus on more important matters.

Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, leading the GOP opposition on the floor, called the investigation an “illegal criminal investigation into American citizens” and said Bannon is a “Democrat Party boogeyman”.

Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kizinger is the only two Republicans on the January 6 panel, and has both openly criticized Trump and his role in fueling the rebellion, while most House Republicans have largely remained silent in the face of Trump’s lies about fraud. . in the election. Trump’s claims were rejected by election officials, courts across the country, and his own attorney general.

The January 6 committee voted 9-0 on Tuesday to recommend the contempt charges, citing a letter from Trump’s attorney, after Bannon missed a scheduled interview with the panel last week. They were instructed not to answer questions. The committee noted that Bannon had not worked in the White House at the time of the attack, and that he had not only spoken with Trump before, but promoted protests on his podcast and predicted there would be unrest. On January 5, Bannon said that “all hell is going to break loose.”

The panel’s lawmakers said Bannon alone was rejecting his summons outright, while more than a dozen other witnesses were conversing with him at least.

“Mr. Bannon’s own public statements make clear that he knew what was about to happen before he did, and thus he should have been aware of – and may well have been involved with – whatever happened that day. also played, his planning,” Cheney said ahead of the vote. “The American people deserve to know what he knew and what he did.”

Republican Reps with Cheney and Kizinger for including Bannon in voting for contempt. There were Peter Meijer and Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Nancy Mays of South Carolina, and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington. .

Mace, who represents a political swing district, told reporters after the vote that she wanted to retain the power of subpoenas for a future Republican majority.

“I wish I had the power to summon when we begin to investigate some of the crises facing the Biden administration,” she said, referring to immigration and withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Biden himself called for the rebellion and linked it to the nation’s turbulent history as he marked the 10th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

“We are facing a dark stain in the soul of the nation: hatred and white supremacy,” Biden said, in what he said is a line in American history from slavery to the present day.

“Nine months ago in a violent, deadly uprising on the Capitol – it was about white supremacy in my view,” he said.

Biden, who previously said the Justice Department should prosecute those who ignore congressional subpoenas, apologized Thursday for interfering with the agency’s decisions in comments last week.

“I should have chosen my words more wisely. I didn’t pick up the phone and didn’t pick up and called the attorney general and told him what he should or shouldn’t do,” Biden said during the CNN town hall.

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 pursue the charges despite Democratic demands for action. It is a decision that will determine not only the effectiveness of the House inquiry but also the strength of Congress’s power to summon and requisition witnesses.


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