The House Jan. 6 Select Committee is moving to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena. CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig said, "these are difficult charges to make."
"It is a federal criminal misdemeanor to commit contempt of Congress. The maximum punishment is one year. Interestingly, there's actually one month minimum, meaning if you're convicted. You do have to go to prison for a month," Honig explained to CNN's Ana Cabrera.
Honig noted that the one play Bannon could use is pleading the fifth.
"He does have the right to take the fifth amendment against testifying if he may incriminate himself, and he certainly may. Look, Jan. 6 is under criminal investigation. If he takes the fifth, obviously it looks terrible. There's a real appearance issue, but at that point you can't force him to testify unless you immunize him, that's a whole other process, but it's almost impossible to bring a criminal charge if someone has a legitimate fifth amendment right. We'll see if Steve Bannon uses that counter move here," Honig said.
What the next steps could be: The CNN analyst outlined the process and what procedures Congress and the Department of Justice will have to follow in order to move forward with the charge.
"This is a powerful statement by the committee. They are not messing around. Not playing games," he said.
"So the first step in the procedure is the committee has to vote to hold Steve Bannon in contempt, then the whole House has to vote to hold Steve Bannon in contempt, at that point it shifts over to the Justice Department. The decision making at that point is no longer up to Congress, it is now up to Merrick Garland. That will be an extraordinarily important and difficult decision," Honig said.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, who chairs the committee, said the committee's next business meeting will be Oct. 19.
Honig continued to explain why Bannon is being held in contempt and not the other three witnesses who have been subpoenaed.
"One, he has outright defied this committee. Some of the other ones — we've heard Kash Patel, Mark Meadows — are negotiating, engaging with the committee. Bannon's position from the beginning has been, 'I'm out, I'm not giving you anything.' The other thing about Steve Bannon is, his legal claims and defenses are the weakest because he was not an executive branch employee at the time of these events, so any executive privilege claim he may raise here is completely ridiculous," Honig said.
He added, "[Bannon] was reportedly in Trump's ear from the time before of Jan. 6, leading up to Jan. 6. I mean, he's been one of Donald Trump's closest political advisers really from before the 2016 election, so, yeah — and there's plenty of evidence that Steve Bannon was centrally involved here. The committee has said they chose Bannon for a reason. So I think there's a reason they picked this fight."