The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack voted unanimously on Tuesday night to refer Steve Bannon to the Department of Justice for criminal contempt charges.
The House will now vote on the matter. Bannon, an ally of former President Donald Trump who has pushed the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, has refused to comply with the committee's subpoena seeking records and testimony related to the events of Jan. 6.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the panel, said that it "brings me no joy" to have to vote to hold Bannon in contempt, but the "expectation of this committee is that all witnesses will cooperate with our investigation. Witnesses who have been subpoenaed have a legal obligation to do so."
The committee is "investigating a violent attack on the seat of our democracy perpetrated by fellow citizens on our Constitution, an attempt to stop the certification of an election," Thompson continued. "It's shocking to me, shocking anyone would not do anything in their power to assist our investigation." Dozens of witnesses have turned over their records and been interviewed, Thompson said, adding that Bannon "stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena. It's not acceptable. No one in this country, no matter how wealthy or how powerful, is above the law. Left unaddressed, this defiance might encourage others to follow Mr. Bannon down the same path."
The vote aired on live television, and Thompson asked people watching at home to "think about something — what would happen to you if you did what Mr. Bannon is doing if you were a material witness in a criminal prosecution or some other lawsuit? What would happen if you refused to show up? You think you'd be able to just go about your business? We all know the answer to that. There isn't a different set of rules for Mr. Bannon. He knows this. He knows that there are consequences for outright defiance and he's chosen a path toward criminal contempt by taking this position."
Vice Chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) also spoke, repeating comments Bannon made on his podcast ahead of the Capitol riot. His remarks are why the committee wants to talk to him, Cheney said, as it "appears he had substantial advance knowledge of the plans of Jan. 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans." Bannon has "no legal right to ignore the committee's lawful subpoena," Cheney added, and the "American people are entitled to his testimony."