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House votes to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt

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The House voted Thursday to hold top adviser to former President Trump Steve Bannon in criminal contempt after he defied a subpoena to appear and provide documents to the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Nine Republicans joined Democrats to vote in favor of holding Bannon in contempt. 

The matter now goes to the Justice Department. Attorney General Merrick Garland, appearing before the House Judiciary Committee earlier Thursday, said the Justice Department will "do what it always does in such circumstances—  it will apply the facts and the law and make a decision consistent with the principles of prosecution."

Representative Peter Meijer, one of the nine Republicans who voted yes, tweeted after the vote, "There is no conceivable interpretation of exec privilege that applies to someone outside of gov't, conferring with senior gov't officials, on non-official matters. Holding individuals who refuse to comply with congressional subpoenas in contempt is the sole recourse available to Congress to protect its power of inquiry."

In the debate ahead of the vote, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is one of only two Republicans on the committee and one of the eight Republicans who voted to hold him in contempt, said "Bannon's own public statements make clear he knew what was going to happen before it did."

The January 6 subcommittee has cited his comments on January 5, the day before the Capitol assault. Bannon said on his podcast listeners that "hell is going to break loose tomorrow."

Congress Budget
People walk by the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. A centerpiece of President Joe Biden's climate change strategy all but dashed, lawmakers are heading Tuesday to the White House as Democrats search for for common ground on ways to narrow and reshape his sweeping $3.5 trillion budget plan. Andrew Harnik / AP

Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told the House that Bannon has "has made it clear where his loyalties lie. He's chosen Trump first and America last."

The GOP leadership had been urging Republicans to vote against the motion. But Congressman Adam Kinizinger, the other Republican on the committee, urged members on Thursday to vote for it. Kinizinger said Bannon had "defied the rule of law." 

The House vote comes after the January 6 select committee voted unanimously to recommend contempt charges for Bannon. "We believe Mr. Bannon has information relevant to our probe, and we'll use the tools at our disposal to get that information," committee chair Bennie Thompson said ahead of that vote. 

In a letter obtained by CBS News, Bannon's attorney said last week that he was not acting in "defiance" of the subpoena, and pointed to instructions from Mr. Trump's attorney. "President Trump's counsel stated that they were invoking executive and other privileges and therefore directed us not to produce documents or give testimony that might reveal information President Trump's counsel seeks to legally protect," his lawyer said.  

President Biden has rejected Mr. Trump's assertion of executive privilege for the documents requested by the committee, and the White House said it would give the panel access to federal records connected to the Trump White House and the January 6 insurrection.   

On Monday, Mr. Trump sued the committee, Thompson, the National Archives and David Ferriero, the director of the National Archives, in an effort to block the release of documents related to his actions on January 6.

Mr. Trump spoke at the Stop the Steal rally on January 6 before Congress convened to count the electoral votes, a largely ceremonial final step affirming Mr. Biden's victory. He  encouraged his supporters to "walk over" to the Capitol to protest the results of the election. 

Chaos erupted at the Capitol a few hours later as thousands of Mr. Trump's supporters descended on the Capitol, breaking windows and ransacking the building. Lawmakers, including former Vice President Mike Pence, fled the floor amid the riot, which led to the deaths of five people and the arrests of hundreds more. Mr. Trump was impeached by the House one week later for inciting the riot but was later acquitted by the Senate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the House select committee earlier this year to "establish the truth" of what happened that day. Despite the initial attempts to make it a bipartisan committee, Kinzinger and Cheney, two of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump, are the only two Republicans on the nine-person committee.

In addition to Bannon, the committee has subpoenaed the organizers of the Stop the Steal rally, as well as several former Trump administration officials: Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, communications director Dan Scavino and Pentagon chief of staff Kashyap Patel. 

Zak Hudak and Ellis Kim contributed reporting.

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