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Bannon Held in Contempt       10/20 06:17

   A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection voted 
unanimously to hold former White House aide Steve Bannon in contempt of 
Congress after the longtime ally of former President Donald Trump defied a 
subpoena for documents and testimony.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- A House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol 
insurrection voted unanimously to hold former White House aide Steve Bannon in 
contempt of Congress after the longtime ally of former President Donald Trump 
defied a subpoena for documents and testimony.

   Still defending his supporters who broke into the Capitol that day, Trump 
has aggressively tried to block the committee's work by directing Bannon and 
others not to answer questions in the probe. Trump has also filed a lawsuit to 
try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents.

   But lawmakers have made clear they will not back down as they gather facts 
and testimony about the attack involving Trump's supporters that left dozens of 
police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted 
the certification of President Joe Biden's victory.

   The committee's chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said Tuesday that 
Bannon "stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena" and the panel 
will not take no for an answer.

   He said that while Bannon may be "willing to be a martyr to the disgraceful 
cause of whitewashing what happened on January 6th -- of demonstrating his 
complete loyalty to the former president," the contempt vote is a warning to 
other witnesses.

   "We won't be deterred. We won't be distracted. And we won't be delayed," 
Thompson said.

   The Tuesday evening vote sends the contempt resolution to the full House, 
which is expected to vote on the measure Thursday. House approval would send 
the matter to the Justice Department, which would then decide whether to pursue 
criminal charges against Bannon.

   The contempt resolution asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host 
has no legal standing to rebuff the committee --- even as Trump's lawyer has 
argued that Bannon should not disclose information because it is protected by 
the privilege of the former president's office. The committee noted that 
Bannon, fired from his White House job in 2017, was a private citizen when he 
spoke to Trump ahead of the attack. And Trump has not asserted any such 
executive privilege claims to the panel itself, lawmakers said.

   Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney -- one of just two Republicans on the committee, and 
a rare GOP critic of Trump -- said Bannon and Trump's privilege arguments 
suggest the former president was "personally involved" in the planning and 
execution of the day's events.

   "We will get to the bottom of that," Cheney said.

   The committee says it is pursuing Bannon's testimony because of his reported 
communications with Trump ahead of the siege, his efforts to get the former 
president to focus on the congressional certification of the vote Jan. 6 and 
his comments on Jan. 5 that "all hell is going to break loose" the next day.

   Bannon "appears to have had multiple roles relevant to this investigation, 
including his role in constructing and participating in the ?stop the steal' 
public relations effort that motivated the attack" and "his efforts to plan 
political and other activity in advance of January 6th," the committee wrote in 
the resolution recommending contempt.

   The Biden White House has also rejected Bannon's claims, with Deputy Counsel 
Jonathan Su writing Bannon's lawyer this week to say that "at this point we are 
not aware of any basis for your client's refusal to appear for a deposition." 
Biden's judgment that executive privilege is not justified, Su wrote, "applies 
to your client's deposition testimony and to any documents your client may 
possess."

   Asked last week if the Justice Department should prosecute those who refuse 
to testify, Biden said yes. But the Justice Department quickly pushed back, 
with a spokesman saying the department would make its own decisions.

   While Bannon has said he needs a court order before complying with his 
subpoena, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former White House 
and Pentagon aide Kashyap Patel have been negotiating with the committee. The 
panel has also subpoenaed more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump 
rallies ahead of the siege, and some of them are already turning over documents 
and giving testimony.

   Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin said all the other witnesses who were subpoenaed 
are "either complying or acting in good faith as opposed to just blowing us 
off," as Bannon has.

   The committee is also conducting voluntary closed-door interviews with other 
witnesses who have come forward or immediately complied with their requests.

   For some of the witnesses, Raskin said, "it's a privilege and really an 
opportunity for them to begin to make amends, if they were involved in these 
events." Some of them "feel terrible about the role they played," he said.

   Still, there could be more contempt votes to come.

   "I won't go into details in terms of the back and forth, but I'll just say 
our patience is not infinite," said Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the panel's 
other Republican, about some of the witness negotiations.

   The vote came a day after Trump sued the committee and the National Archives 
to fight the release of documents the committee has requested. Trump's lawsuit, 
filed after Biden said he'd allow the documents' release, claims that the 
panel's August request was overly broad and a "vexatious, illegal fishing 
expedition."

   Trump's suit seeks to invalidate the entirety of the congressional request, 
calling it overly broad, unduly burdensome and a challenge to separation of 
powers. It requests a court injunction to bar the archivist from producing the 
documents.

   The Biden administration, in clearing the documents for release, said the 
violent siege of the Capitol more than nine months ago was such an 
extraordinary circumstance that it merited waiving the privilege that usually 
protects White House communications.

 
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