Steve Bannon, the chief strategist in the administration of former US President Donald Trump, has been denied a chance to avoid being referred to prosecution by a House committee probing the Jan. 6 deadly insurrection at the US Capitol.
The US House committee had released a criminal contempt report against the GOP strategist earlier, which his attorneys tried to delay “so that we might thoughtfully assess the impact of this pending legislation.”
Chairman Bennie Thompson denied the request, arguing that committee’s work is “extremely important and urgent for the nation.”
“Further delay in compliance by Mr. Bannon undermines the ability of the committee to timely complete its essential responsibilities,” said the Mississippi Democrat.
Trump has filed a federal lawsuit against the Jan. 6 select committee in an attempt to block the panel from obtaining his administration's records from the US National Archives, something that has to be addressed first, Bannon argued, before he could comply with the committee’s subpoena.
After being referred to the US Department of Justice for criminal charges, Bannon could potentially face the jail time, a fine or both.
“As you are aware, Mr. Bannon’s tenure as a White House employee ended in 2017,” White House deputy counsel Jonathan Su wrote in documents released by the panel. “To the extent any privileges could apply to Mr. Bannon’s conversations with the former president or White House staff after the conclusion of his tenure, President Biden has already determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the public interest and therefor not justified.”
In their lawsuit, the former president’s attorneys argued that he had an interest in preserving executive privilege over some documents.
"As it relates to any materials being sought in situations like this, where fundamental privileges and constitutional issues are at stake and where a committee has declined to grant sufficient time to conduct a full review, there is a longstanding bipartisan tradition of protective assertions of executive privilege designed to ensure the ability to make a final assertion, if necessary, over some or all of the requested material," read the lawsuit.
Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, a Republican, slammed the lawsuit in a statement, suggesting that the former president wants to hide the facts relating to his role in inciting violence by his supporters, who were trying to overturn the 2020 election results in his favor.
Since Jan. 6, Democrats have been arguing that the protest was an insurrection based on disinformation spread by the former president, who alleges that he is the true victor of the 2020 presidential election and not President Joe Biden.
“The former president’s clear objective is to stop the select committee from getting to the facts about Jan. 6 and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe. Precedent and law are on our side. Executive privilege is not absolute and President Biden has so far declined to invoke that privilege," they said. "Additionally, there’s a long history of the White House accommodating congressional investigative requests when the public interest outweighs other concerns. It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election."
After turning on Bannon and dismissing him from his administration, then-President Trump asserted that “Steve had very little to do with our historic victory [in the 2016 presidential election].”