Jan. 6 panel could seek criminal contempt for Bannon

Meadows, Patel ‘engaging’ with panel, while Scavino situation unclear

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. (Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images file photo)
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court on August 20, 2020 in the Manhattan borough of New York City. (Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress via Getty Images file photo)
Posted October 8, 2021 at 3:34pm

Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Kashyap Patel, a former Defense Department official, are “engaging” with the Jan. 6 select committee, but Stephen Bannon, a former Trump adviser, is not complying with requests for documents and testimony, a move that may result in the panel sending a criminal contempt of Congress referral to the Department of Justice.

Dan Scavino, the former White House deputy chief of staff for communications, was not mentioned in the committee’s statement Friday, which comes the day after an Oct. 7 deadline for the four Trump allies to produce records.

All four were included in the first round of subpoenas sent by the committee in September. Bannon and Patel are directed to testify at depositions on Oct. 14, while Scavino and Meadows are instructed to be deposed on Oct. 15.

Bannon, the committee says, has indicated he could invoke executive privilege relating to former President Donald Trump.

“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,” a joint statement from Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said. “The Select Committee fully expects all of these witnesses to comply with our demands for both documents and deposition testimony.”

The select committee said it is prepared to quickly advance a criminal contempt of Congress referral to the Department of Justice, which would go to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to decide whether a criminal charge should be filed.

“Though the Select Committee welcomes good-faith engagement with witnesses seeking to cooperate with our investigation, 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,” Thompson and Cheney said.

In addition to the subpoenas sent to the four Trump allies, 14 subpoenas have been sent in past weeks to others involved in the planning and organizing of events before and on the day of the insurrection, including members of Women for America First, the group that organized the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse. On Thursday, the panel sent subpoenas for records and testimony from Ali Alexander and Nathan Martin, two people who organized the Stop the Steal rally. Stop the Steal LLC was also issued a subpoena.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed there won’t be an executive privilege claim on the first batch of documents from the National Archives regarding the Jan. 6 panel’s document production request.

The House has held six executive branch officials in criminal contempt of Congress for denying a committee information subpoenaed during an ongoing investigation.

The House voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt in 2019 for failing to comply with subpoenas in connection with a dispute over the census.

The Justice Department declined to bring those cases before a grand jury, citing legal precedent in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi that said the actions “did not constitute a crime.”

Before that, the House voted for criminal contempt for IRS official Lois Lerner in 2014, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in 2012, and White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten in 2008, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

The criminal contempt of Congress law states that anyone who willfully fails to comply with a properly issued committee subpoena for testimony or documents is guilty of a misdemeanor and could face a fine and up to one year in prison.

Todd Ruger and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.