The U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to hold Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump’s longtime advisers, in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with a congressional inquiry into the January 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol.
The House voted 229-202, with a handful of Republican lawmakers, including Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, both members of the panel conducting the investigation, joining the Democratic majority in the House in voting against Bannon.
The citation will now be sent to the federal prosecutor in Washington for presentation to a grand jury for possible indictment of Bannon. He could, if convicted, be sentenced to up to a year in prison, but contempt of Congress charges are unusual and rarely result in prison time.
The House debated the contempt citation for more than hour before voting. Democrats on the investigative committee argued that Bannon should not be allowed to ignore their subpoena for his testimony about his role in the mayhem at the Capitol and his conversations with Trump.
“We cannot let this man flout the laws with impunity,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the investigative committee.
Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland, another Democrat, told lawmakers, “In America, when you’re subpoenaed, you show up. You cannot blow off a subpoena.”
But one Republican opposed to the contempt citation, Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, contended the committee members were “abusing their power to put [Bannon] in prison” and accused the panel of conducting “a sham investigation.”
A vocal Trump supporter, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, said the investigation “is really about getting President Trump.”
The riot unfolded nine months ago as lawmakers were certifying that Trump had lost last year’s election to Democrat Joe Biden, who was inaugurated as the country’s 46th president two weeks later.
The committee investigating the insurrection voted earlier this week to initiate the contempt charges, saying Bannon was the only witness who had completely refused to testify. The committee said Bannon spoke to Trump before the rioting and promoted the January 6 protest, after which about 800 Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol.
Just ahead of the rampage, at a rally near the White House, Trump urged supporters to “fight like hell” to block certification of Biden’s victory. Some of those attendees entered the Capitol, vandalized the building, ransacked congressional offices and fought with police. More than 600 have been charged with an array of offenses. The chaos left five people dead.
Trump has sought to stymie the committee’s investigation of what precipitated the rioting and his role in it. He has urged Bannon and other former aides subpoenaed by the committee to reject its requests, claiming executive privilege for White House documents. Bannon was Trump’s chief strategist at the White House through the first seven months of 2017 and has remained one of his most vocal supporters.
Trump filed a lawsuit Monday, alleging the committee made an illegal, unfounded and overly broad request for his White House records.
Biden’s White House has argued that Trump has no legitimate privilege claim.
“The former president’s actions represented a unique — and existential — threat to our democracy that can’t be swept under the rug,” spokesman Michael Gwin said. “The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the Constitution itself.”
Senate Republicans blocked the creation of an independent commission to probe the mayhem, a panel that would have been modeled on the one that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In response, the Democratic-controlled House then created the nine-member investigative panel, with seven Democrats, along with Cheney and Kinzinger, both of whom have been vocal Trump critics.
In July, the panel heard vivid, detailed accounts from four police officers who encountered the rioters inside the Capitol on January 6 but has not heard more public testimony since then.