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Jan. 6 commission threatens criminal referrals after Steve Bannon snubs subpoena

The commission said the former White House adviser "indicated that he will try to hide behind vague references to privileges of the former President."
Stephen Bannon Charged With Fraud Over Border Wall Group
Steve Bannon departs federal court in New York on Aug. 20, 2020.Mark Kauzlarich / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol is threatening to hand out criminal contempt referrals after a lawyer for former Trump strategist Steve Bannon said his client would not cooperate with subpoenas.

Bannon was one of four advisers to former President Donald Trump who faced a Thursday deadline to hand over documents relating to the events of the day, along with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former social media director Dan Scavino and Kashyap Patel, who was chief of staff to Trump's defense secretary.

In a joint statement, committee chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and vice-chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said “While Mr. Meadows and Mr. Patel are, so far, engaging with the Select Committee, Mr. Bannon has indicated that he will try to hide behind vague references to privileges of the former President."

The statement did not mention Scavino.

Thompson and Cheney said the committee "fully expects all of these witnesses to comply with our demands for both documents and deposition testimony," and "we will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral."

Such a referral would essentially ask the Department of Justice to prosecute a person for contempt of Congress. If convicted, the person could face fines or up to a year behind bars.

In a letter to the committee dated Oct. 7, Bannon attorney Robert Costello said he'd been told by Trump lawyer Justin Clark that Trump planned on claiming "executive and other privileges." "(U)ntil these issues are resolved, we are unable to respond to your request for documents and testimony," Costello wrote.

He added, "We will comply with the directions of the courts, when and if they rule on these claims of both executive and attorney client privilege" — although Bannon is not a lawyer and Trump has yet to file any legal action.

Unlike Meadows, Scavino and Patel, Bannon was not a member of the administration when he was advising Trump in the runup to Jan. 6. NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner said that would make it much more difficult for Bannon to try to make a claim of executive privilege.

Trump has also tried asserting executive privilege to block the National Archives from turning over documents from his presidency over to the committee, but the Biden White House has denied at least one such request, NBC News reported Friday.

A source familiar with the matter confirmed reports Thursday that Trump has directed his former aides to defy the subpoenas.

A representative for Meadows declined to comment.

In a statement Friday, Patel said, "I can confirm that I have responded to the subpoena in a timely manner. Beyond that, I will not comment on my confidential dealings with the Committee. But I can assure you that I will continue to tell the truth."

Bannon, whom Trump fired from the White House in 2017, was indicted in August of last year on federal wire fraud and money-laundering charges.

Prosecutors alleged that Bannon’s crowdfunding “We Build the Wall” campaign took hundreds of thousands of donated dollars and used them for personal expenses.

Trump gave him a pardon in his final hours of office.