House votes to hold Steve Bannon in contempt; 9 Republicans joined Dems to seek criminal referral

DCNFAndrew Trunsky, DCNF

The House voted Thursday to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 select committee, setting the stage for him to be criminally charged as Democrats up their fight for firsthand documents about former President Donald Trump’s attempt to reverse the 2020 election.

The vote results in the House sending a criminal referral to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., which must now decide whether to bring charges against Bannon. It comes almost a month after the select committee first subpoenaed Bannon over his communications with Trump about their efforts to overturn the election, an insistence with which Bannon has refused to comply on the grounds of executive privilege.

The 229-202 contempt vote included Republicans voting in favor, even as GOP leadership urged its caucus to vote against it, and came two days after the committee unanimously recommended holding Bannon in contempt.

“Getting to the truth of what happened or placating the ego of a former president, that shouldn’t be a tough call,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts and the chair of the House Rules Committee. “We have fewer more important and solemn duties than what is at the heart of the measure before us today. And that is protecting our democracy and preventing future attempts to overturn the results of an election.”

The committee also subpoenaed former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Defense Department chief of staff Kash Patel, but they have been “engaging” with the committee thus far. Members of the committee have portrayed Bannon as central to Trump’s plans to overturn the election, seeking his testimony and relevant records to piece together what happened on Jan. 6 and who may have been involved.

“[Bannon] must have been aware of, and may well have been involved in, the planning of everything that played out on that day,” said Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming and the committee’s vice chair. “The American people deserve to know what he knew and what he did.”

Other Republicans, however, argued ahead of the vote Thursday that Democrats’ focus was misguided and that they should instead subpoena the D.C. National Guard and former Sergeant at Arms about miscommunications that led to the attack.

“[This] is another investigation in search of a crime,” said Minnesota Republican Rep. Michelle Fischbach, the Rules Committee’s ranking member.

Other Republicans were more blunt in their remarks. “[Democrats] are weakening the power of Congress by issuing an invalid subpoena,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Despite the widespread Republican opposition, the committee said that it was determined to get to the bottom of what led up to Jan. 6. President Joe Biden’s administration also waived executive privilege rights to an array of documents involving many of Trump’s former aides, his adult children and former First Lady Melania Trump, days before Trump himself sued the committee in an attempt to stop their investigation.

“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however,’” Cheney added at the hearing.

“They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th. And we will get to the bottom of that.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated.

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