Jan. 6 committee advances report to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

By Melissa Macaya

Updated 11:16 a.m. ET, October 20, 2021
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11:33 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Trump’s legal team asks for injunction and hearing within 21 days for lawsuit over presidency documents

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Former President Trump’s legal team has asked the federal court in DC for a preliminary injunction and a hearing within 21 days as part of his lawsuit over documents from his presidency.

“If the Court does not intervene, the Archivist could give the Committee confidential, privileged information,” Trump’s legal team writes, asking for a court order to stop the Archives from giving White House records to the House.

“If such material is disclosed before the Court has an opportunity to hear Plaintiff and to determine the merits of his claim, the very rights Plaintiff seeks to protect will have been destroyed. Such a result would not only injure President Trump but also future presidents by chilling advice given by presidential aides and advisors.”

The request to the court late Tuesday jump starts the case, potentially prompting federal Judge Tanya Chutkan to consider Trump’s legal arguments quickly. 

Trump’s already facing a tight deadline as the National Archives processes documents it has from his White House and that are being sought by the House Jan. 6 investigation.

The news from his legal team comes as the Jan. 6 committee voted to approve a criminal contempt report for his ally Steve Bannon after he defied a subpoena.

The Archives is set to turn over more than 45 records that Trump wants to keep confidential on Nov. 12, unless a federal judge intervenes, as the Archives continues to process additional records from the Trump presidency. 

The Biden administration has declined to assert executive privilege so far, and Trump’s court action this week tees up a potentially long and complex legal battle over executive privilege, Congress’ power and the role of a former President.

9:11 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Raskin: Bannon is "sitting out there on his own"

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland and member of the Jan. 6 committee, told reporters after Steve Bannon’s criminal contempt report was passed out of the committee that Bannon has no protection from executive privilege and therefore should come before the committee to “make it right.” 

“I’m sorry, Steve Bannon is sitting out there on his own,” Raskin said. “On the edge of the branch here, and it's going to fall off for him. He should come before this committee and make it right.”

Raskin slammed Bannon’s argument that he was protected by executive privilege.

“Donald Trump has not tried to contact our committee to invoke executive privilege so that's Steve Bannon, essentially claiming he's got a friend who was formerly in high places, but that's irrelevant. That's got nothing to do with executive privilege,” Raskin said.

Raskin said Bannon could just show up in front of the committee and plead the Fifth Amendment, but he has to show up. 

“If Mr. Bannon wants to show up and plead the Fifth Amendment because he will incriminate himself, he has a constitutional right,” Raskin said. 

“There are procedures for people who've gotten themselves into criminal trouble like Steve Bannon and hundreds of defendants in the January 6 events have been complying with the law since then and that is essential to the continuation of the rule of law in America,” he added.

Raskin said that the step the committee took tonight on Bannon should serve as a warning shot. 

“Every American should ask himself or herself, tonight, whether they would ignore a subpoena from a court,” Raskin added.

9:12 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Schiff says he does not know if Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows is acting in good faith

From CNN's Zachary Cohen and Sam Fossum

(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)
(Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and member of the Jan. 6 committee, told reporters Tuesday he does not know if Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows is acting in good faith with regards to his engagement with the select committee but said the panel will make a decision “very quickly” whether he and others who have been subpoenaed are doing so.

“With respect to those who have subpoenaed or very quickly make a decision whether, whether they're discussing their testimony in good faith, or whether they're just trying to string us along,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting where the committee voted to pursue criminal contempt charges against Trump ally Steve Bannon. 

Asked if he thinks Meadows is acting in good fair Schiff said: “I don't know the answer to that.”

“I do know that if we reach the conclusion that they're not operating in good faith, and that they're not going to show up, then we will hold them in criminal contempt as we did with Mr. Bannon,” he said.

As CNN first reported, Schiff also acknowledged there was a delay in serving a subpoena to another former Trump adviser Dan Scavino but declined to comment on the nature of discussions with his counsel. 

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger would not go into detail on the back and forth between the select committee and Scavino, Meadows and Trump loyalist Kash Patel, although he did warn that the committee's patience is "not infinite." 

Speaking to reporters following the committee's business meeting on Tuesday, Kinzinger was also asked about concerns over the independence of the Justice Department.  

"It'll end up being in their court," Kinzinger said. 

Kinzinger said he did not know if other Republicans will vote for the criminal contempt when it is presented before the full of House of Representatives.  

8:39 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Congress will use "all of the tools" it can to enforce Bannon's testimony, says Jan. 6 committee member

From CNN's Josiah Rya

Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who serves on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, said she believes Congress will continue act quickly to force Trump ally Steve Bannon to testify for the probe.

"Mr. Bannon should understand that he cannot evade a subpoena from Congress, and that we are going to act quickly, and we will use all of the tools that we have in order to enforce a law and to receive his testimony," she said.

Luria, who was speaking moments after the bipartisan panel voted unanimously to move forward with a criminal contempt referral against Bannon for refusing to comply with its subpoenas, also praised the two Republicans who defied their party leadership to join the panel.

"I wish there were more," she said. "If you ask my sentiment, I was sad that there were only two Republicans there on the dais with us who supported the need to move forward with this committee."

8:44 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Cheney urges GOP colleagues to rebuke Trump's election lies: "You know these claims are false"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

US Rep. Liz Cheney speaks at Tuesday night's meeting.
US Rep. Liz Cheney speaks at Tuesday night's meeting. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Liz Cheney urged her fellow Republican colleagues to rebuke former President Trump's election lies during her opening statement at the Jan. 6 select committee's meeting to vote to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt.

"Almost every one of my colleagues knows, in your hearts, that what happened on Jan. 6 was profoundly wrong," Cheney said.

She then highlighted how there is no evidence of widespread election fraud and the dangers of continuing to spread the "Big Lie" and how doing so is "a prescription for national self destruction."

"You all know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to changed the results of the election. You all know that the Dominion voting machines were not corrupted by a foreign power. You know these claims are false. Yet, former President Trump repeats them almost daily. He is now urged Republicans not to vote in 2022 and 2024. This is a prescription for national self destruction. I ask my colleagues, please consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong here. The American people must know what happened, they must know the truth, all of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law, and to ensure that nothing like that dark day in January ever happens again," Cheney said.

8:29 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

The Jan. 6 committee is moving ahead with holding Bannon in criminal contempt. Here's what it means.

From CNN's Paul LeBlanc

Members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol have shown they're willing to pursue criminal contempt referrals against witnesses who refuse to comply with the panel's subpoenas.

But what does criminal contempt mean?

Criminal contempt is one of the three options the congressional panel can pursue to enforce its subpoenas, along with civil and inherent contempt.

In the first test of the panel's willingness to pursue such a referral, the committee voted unanimously Tuesday evening to refer Trump ally Steve Bannon to the Justice Department for criminal contempt charges after he refused to comply with a subpoena deadline.

"It's a shame that Mr. Bannon has put us in this position. But we won't take 'no' for an answer," Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said ahead of the vote. "We believe Mr. Bannon has information relevant to our probe, and we'll use the tools at our disposal to get that information."

The panel had sent him a letter on Friday rejecting his argument for failing to comply while dismissing his claim of executive privilege, particularly as it relates to his communications with individuals other than former President Trump, according to a copy obtained by CNN.

Now that the criminal contempt referral of Bannon has cleared the committee, it heads to the House for a vote. If that vote succeeds, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia.

Here are some more key things to know about criminal contempt:

Under law, this certification then requires the United States attorney to "bring the matter before the grand jury for its action," but the Justice Department will also makes its own determinations for prosecuting.

Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail time.

As severe as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House's choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning shot than a solution. Holding a person in criminal contempt through a prosecution could take years, and historic criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.

8:25 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Norm Eisen: History will "look favorably" on Republicans who voted to enforce the Bannon subpoena

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

US Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger attend Tuesday night’s vote.
US Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger attend Tuesday night’s vote. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Norm Eisen, a former counsel to House Democrats during the impeachment trial of former President Trump, praised the two Republicans serving on the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 US Capitol attack, both of whom voted to enforce the subpoena for Trump ally Steve Bannon, saying history would judge them kindly.

"History will look favorably on Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their strong voices," he said naming the only two Republicans who serve on the panel.

"What is really going on here is that Trump, and his cronies, first among them Bannon, are trying to hide," said Eisen, moments after the contempt report on Bannon had unanimously passed. "...As a matter of law, that allows the inference."

Eisen said he believes "more damaging information" would emerge about the Jan. 6 attack, which Trump and allies are seeking to hide.

8:10 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Rep. Schiff after contempt vote: "No one is above the law"

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California and member of the Jan. 6 committee, has tweeted his thoughts after tonight’s contempt vote, saying despite what Steve Bannon and former President Trump may believe, “no one is above the law.”

See his tweet:

10:46 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Jan. 6 committee adopts report to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt. Now the House must vote.

From CNN's  Zachary Cohen, Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer and Whitney Wild

Steve Bannon gives a speech in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday.
Steve Bannon gives a speech in Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday. (Steve Helber/AP)

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 US Capitol attack adopted a report to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Trump's closest allies, in contempt of Congress Tuesday night. It passed unanimously. 

The report will now be referred to the House for a vote. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told CNN on Tuesday that he expects the full House to vote on criminal contempt charges for Bannon before the end of the week, and a source familiar with the floor schedule told CNN the plan is for the the chamber to vote on the referral on Thursday.

After the full House vote, it would then get referred to the Justice Department.

The contempt report, which was released Monday night, outlines the efforts the committee made to get a witness to comply with the subpoena, and the failure by the witness to do so.

Tonight's action marks a critical milestone in the investigation as the panel hopes even the remote threat of jail time inspires more Trump-aligned witnesses to cooperate.

More on this: Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress would be guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment.

But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail time — though the House's pursuit of criminal charges may be more about making an example out of Bannon and sending a message to other potential witnesses.