The House Jan. 6 select committee took its first step toward holding former White House adviser Steve Bannon in contempt late Monday after he defied the panel’s subpoena demanding testimony and certain documents last week.
The committee released a 26-page report laying out its case for criminal contempt charges against Bannon, who had argued that ex-President Donald Trump’s “executive privilege” claim prevented him from complying with the panel’s subpoena. The committee is set to vote on the Bannon “contempt report” this evening. If approved, it will be sent to the House for a full vote.
The report first explained why Bannon’s testimony is “critical” to the committee’s investigation into the Capitol attack, one that was, of course, fueled by Trump and his lackeys’ lies about the 2020 election being rigged.
The report also knocked down Bannon’s “executive privilege” argument with an obvious counterpoint: The adviser had been fired from the White House in 2017, years before the insurrection.
“The Select Committee seeks information from Mr. Bannon on a wide range of subjects that it is inconceivable executive privilege would reach,” the committee argued in its report. “Mr. Bannon was a private citizen during the relevant time period and the testimony and documents the Select Committee is demanding do not concern discussion of official government matters with the President and his immediate advisors.”
The committee’s report revealed for the first time what kinds of documents and testimony the panel had sought in its Bannon subpoena, which included Bannon’s interactions with not just Trump but private, non-government citizens -– interactions that the report argues would therefore, again, not be protected as “executive privilege.”
The report also gave a rather detailed outline of how the committee, particularly committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS), communicated with Bannon and his lawyer, Robert Costello, after issuing the subpoena that ordered the ex-adviser to hand over requested documents by October 7 and to come in for a deposition on October 14.
According to the report, the committee’s staff emailed Costello on October 13 to discuss the “logistics” of Bannon’s scheduled deposition. Costello and the committee allegedly spoke on the phone about an hour after the email was sent. It was allegedly during that call that Bannon’s lawyer stated that his client would not appear before the committee due to Trump’s executive privilege claim. Then, as we know, Bannon refused to show up at the hearing the next day on October 14 at 10 a.m. ET.
However, “Mr. Bannon has relied on no legal authority to support his refusal to comply in any fashion with the subpoena,” the report argued.
The report alleged that Bannon and Costello didn’t offer any specific objections to the documents listed in the subpoena or explain what in those requested documents or testimony would be protected by executive privilege. Trump himself hasn’t told the committee that the information the committee seeks from Bannon falls under executive privilege, the report said, only Bannon himself has made that claim.
“This third-hand, non-specific assertion of privilege, without any description of the documents or testimony over which privilege is claimed, is insufficient to activate a claim of executive privilege,” the report said.
Even if Bannon could have plausibly claimed executive privilege, he still needed to show up to the hearing and make the argument in the first place, the report said. Bannon was also required to provide the committee with a “privilege log” that identifies which documents fall under executive privilege and why, the report argued.
“Mr. Bannon did neither,” the report said. “He should be held in contempt.”
Read the report below: