WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives was expected on Thursday to approve contempt-of-Congress charges against Steve Bannon, a longtime aide to former President Donald Trump, for refusing to cooperate with its probe of a deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the Democratic-led House of Representatives “will vote to approve this contempt resolution to find the truth.” She told reporters Bannon had information “that is central” to a House select committee investigation.
Bannon has refused to comply with committee subpoenas seeking documents and his testimony, citing Trump’s insistence – disputed by some legal scholars – that his communications are protected by the legal doctrine of executive privilege.
The select committee probing the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of the charges. That set up the vote in the full House, where Democrats hold a slim majority. Approval will refer the matter to the Department of Justice.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has yet to indicate how the department will respond. He told a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday the department would “apply the facts” and make decisions “consistent with the principles of prosecution.”
Most of Trump’s fellow Republicans in Congress opposed creating either an independent commission or a select committee to investigate the events surrounding Jan. 6, when thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol after he urged them in a fiery speech to protest his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden in a November 2020 election that Trump falsely claims was stolen.
Only two Republicans – Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger – are on the nine-member select committee.
The contempt of Congress statute, passed in 1857, states that the Justice Department has a duty to bring a House contempt citation before a grand jury.
But the Justice Department historically has said it makes the ultimate decision about whether to prosecute individuals who defy congressional subpoenas. The last successful prosecution for contempt of Congress was in 1974 when a judge found Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy guilty.
Asked about the vote at his weekly news conference on Thursday, Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, said the subpoena for Bannon to testify was “invalid,” making the same executive privilege argument Bannon did.
Four people died on the day of the assault, and one Capitol police officer died the next day of injuries sustained in defense of the seat of government. Hundreds of police officers were injured and four have since taken their own lives.
Trump has continued to insist falsely that his defeat was the result of fraud. Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s own administration have rejected that claim.