House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff said Sunday that Congress voting to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena issued by the Democrat-controlled Jan. 6 committee will be “a way of getting people’s attention” as the panel investigates the origin of the Capitol Building riot.
“If the Justice Department prosecutes Steve Bannon, other witnesses will see they will face real consequences, including jail time and potentially stiff fines. That is a way of getting people’s attention,” the California Democrat said during a “CNN Newsroom” interview with Jim Acosta.
“So, you know, Bannon’s an important witness in his own right, but — but it’s also important to send a message that the rule of law is back and people are going to need to pay attention,” said Schiff, who is a member of the committee.
On Thursday, the panel said it would pursue a criminal prosecution against Bannon after he failed to appear for a scheduled deposition. Bannon has said through his attorneys that he is awaiting the outcome of a separate federal case that has yet to be filed by former President Trump to determine if he can rely on executive privilege to prevent subpoenaed former staffers from testifying before the committee.
“We will comply with the direction of the courts,” Robert Costello, Bannon’s attorney, noted in a letter last week.
Other Democrats on the panel suggested last week that some form of legal action was forthcoming to compel testimony.
“We have engaged with a wide variety of law enforcement offices, including the U.S. Marshals, in order to issue the subpoenas,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) told the “Morning Joe” program on Wednesday. “We will use everything, as you said, with all due respect, we will use all of the agencies and all of the tools at our disposal to issue the subpoenas and enforce them.”
“Mr. Bannon has declined to cooperate with the Select Committee and is instead hiding behind the former President’s insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke,” said Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in a press release on Thursday. “We reject his position entirely.
“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt,” he added.
Last week as well, Schiff said, “We may have additional tools now that we didn’t before, including a Justice Department that may be willing to pursue criminal contempt when people deliberately flout compulsory process.”
After Bannon’s no-show, the panel decided to meet on Tuesday to lay out members’ next course of action, which includes taking up a criminal contempt report. If the panel approves it, then it moves to the full House. If the House passes the resolution, then the matter will be referred to the Department of Justice, where the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., as well as top lawyers at DoJ will then make a decision as to how they will proceed.
Schiff told Acosta Sunday that the “changes are actually very good” of getting Bannon before the committee to testify, adding that he feels it’s important to hear from the former top Trump adviser, though he left the White House in the latter part of 2017.
“I think the biggest area where we still have so much to learn is around the president’s conduct. In the days leading up to January 6th, on that day itself, Steve Bannon was one of the president’s closest advisers,” Schiff said.
“He was predicting that all hell was going to break loose on January 6th. So he clearly has relevant information to share with the committee, and we’re going to make sure that he does,” he continued.
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