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Capitol Hill Politics

Donald Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon has been charged with contempt of Congress

As a result of Bannon ignoring a committee investigation subpoena regarding the Capitol insurrection violence from January 6th, the House voted Thursday to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress.

Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and one of two Republicans on the committee, led the House floor with Wyoming Republican Representative Liz Cheney. Nonetheless, two hundred and twenty-two lawmakers voted “no” out of 229 who took part.

Having passed the House vote, the United States’ attorney’s office in Washington will now have the authority to decide whether to present the case to a grand jury for possible criminal charges. At a House hearing on Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said they plan to “make a decision consistent with the principle of prosecution.” Whether they will pursue the case remains unclear.

As Capitol Hill still struggles with raw tensions, even now, nine months after the January 6th attack, Bannon’s subpoena, as well as the committee’s investigation, is indicative of the partisan divide.

Democrat leaders promised to thoroughly investigate the assault on police, when hundreds of Trump supporters fought despite police presence, injured many police officers, and disrupted the official vote certification for Joe Biden’s November victory. Lawmakers in the panel tell me they will punish anyone who refuses to cooperate with the investigation swiftly and forcefully.

Several Republican members of Congress have called the investigation a witch hunt, saying it was a waste of time and that Congress should instead be focusing on more pressing issues.

Among the panel’s two Republicans, Cheney along with Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger, have been critical of Trump and his role in instigating the rebellion. In contrast, most Republican House members continued to be silent in response to Trump’s false claims about pervasive fraud in the November election. Trump’s claims have continually been rejected by courts, election officials, and even Trump’s attorney general. 

Bannon was ordered not to answer questions from a letter Trump’s lawyer sent him. On Tuesday the result of a committee vote was 9-0 recommended pursuing contempt charges. While the committee pointed out that Bannon was not working at the White House during that January 6th attack, he had spoken to Trump the day prior and predicted unrest on his podcast by saying a full day before that “all hell would break loose.”

A panel of lawmakers said Bannon was the only witness in the case who refused to comply with the subpoena. More than a dozen others were at least negotiating with lawmakers.

Joining Cheney and Kinzinger in voting to hold Bannon in contempt were Republican Representatives Peter Meijer and Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.

Following the vote in the House of Representatives, Mace, who represents a politically swing district, said that she wants future Republican majorities to retain the right to issue subpoenas.

Suppose the Justice Department decides to go forward with a prosecution. In that case, the case could linger on for years — potentially pushing past the 2022 election when Republicans could win control of the House and end the matter.

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