Steve Bannon, set to go to trial next month for defying a congressional subpoena, has subpoenaed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection as he builds his defense.
Bannon, a conservative firebrand who previously served as former President Donald Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor, was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress in November 2021 after refusing to testify and produce documents. He has pleaded not guilty.
Last week, Bannon’s legal team subpoenaed 16 lawmakers and congressional staffers to testify at the July trial and produce documents, according to one of Bannon’s attorneys and copies of the subpoenas provided to CNN. The subpoenas were aimed at all nine members of the select committee, three committee staffers and General Counsel for the House of Representatives Douglas Letter. Bannon also subpoenaed House Democratic leadership, including Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. Jim Clyburn.
A spokesman for the House committee declined to comment. Spokespeople for Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn did not immediately respond to requests to comment.
Historically it has been a challenge to compel members of Congress to testify because their legislative activity is protected under the Constitution’s Speech and Debate Clause.
“In this particular case I’m extremely confident that the staff members and members of the House would be shielded by the Speech and Debate Clause,” said Thomas Spulak, who served as general counsel to the House of Representatives in the 1990s.
The lawmakers and staffers could file a motion to quash the subpoenas on those grounds.
“I’m very confident that defense would be upheld, and they will not be compelled to produce anything or appear for anything,” Spulak said.
Bannon’s attorneys are seeking to challenge the makeup of the House select committee, question lawmakers’ motives for targeting Bannon and argue Bannon was not required to testify because doing so could have jeopardized former President Trump’s executive privilege.
“I believed from the start that it’s a purely political motive going after Bannon,” said David Schoen, one of Bannon’s attorneys. He said if the committee truly wanted Bannon’s testimony, it would not have referred him for criminal contempt charges.
“They’ll never get his testimony now,” Schoen said. “I have to draw the conclusion it’s purely a political message. They’re afraid of the message Bannon puts out there.”
Other Republicans have also challenged the legitimacy of the committee and refused to testify. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refused to comply with a committee subpoena, claiming it was not legally valid. Former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro, who has been charged with two counts of contempt of Congress, also refused to testify and has cited executive privilege issues and claimed his subpoena from the “kangaroo committee” was unenforceable.
The subpoenas also call for targets to hand over a roster of documents, including items relevant to the establishment of the committee, the decision to refer Bannon for criminal contempt and communications with one of Bannon’s lawyers. In the case of Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Jamie Raskin, Bannon’s team has also requested documents that pertain to their recently published books.