Bannon’s attorney wrote a letter to the panel on Wednesday saying his client will not provide testimony or documents until the committee reaches an agreement with former President Donald Trump on executive privilege or a court rules on the matter. “This is an issue between the committee and President Trump’s attorney and Mr. Bannon is under no obligation to respond at this time,” attorney Robert Costello wrote.
While it may take some time before the House sends such a referral to the Justice Department, the committee could take the first steps within hours of the panel’s deadline – which is Thursday – if Bannon refuses. to cooperate, the sources added, noting the growing sense of urgency around the investigation itself.
“The reason some of these witnesses, people like Steve Bannon, who have publicly expressed their contempt for Congress feel they can get away with it, is for four years they did,” he told Wednesday. MSNBC Adam Schiff, Committee Member.
“He would never be prosecuted by Trump’s Justice Department. But those days are gone. And I consider this not only essential to our investigation, but I also consider this, the application of the rule of law, as a first test to know if our democracy is reestablished, “added the Californian Democrat.
CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen quickly rejected Costello’s letter on Wednesday, saying, “This is simply not true. The letter cites a case that ‘the president’ may make decisions about executive privilege. But Trump is no longer “the president.” In the United States, we only have one at a time, that’s Joe Biden, and he hasn’t asserted any privilege here. ”
Three other Trump allies are also facing subpoena delays this week. Two of them, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and former administration official Kash Patel, have “engaged” with the committee, according to the panel, although it is not clear whether this contact is equivalent to a form of cooperation.
As to whether Meadows and Patel will appear before the panel for their depositions later this week, committee member Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat from Florida, said: “I expect them to do the thing. patriotic and appear before the committee, and if they have nothing to hide, there is no reason why they should not show up. “
“Awaiting Steve Bannon’s deposition”
Bannon has not cooperated so far and lawmakers took the opportunity ahead of Thursday’s deadline to reiterate that he was obligated to do so.
“Looking forward to Steve Bannon’s deposition tomorrow and to receiving all of the testimony and evidence we have called for,” select committee representative Jamie Raskin, a Democrat from Maryland, said in a tweet on Wednesday. “It is a legal order as well as a civic duty to share information about the most radical violent attack on Congress since the War of 1812.”
In a letter to the committee earlier this month, Bannon’s attorney argued that “executive privileges belong to President Trump” and “we must accept his leadership and honor his invocation of executive privilege.”
Bannon’s legal team letter goes on to say that it may be up to the courts to decide whether he is ultimately obligated to cooperate – essentially challenging the House to prosecute him or hold him in criminal contempt.
“As such, until these issues are resolved, we will not be able to respond to your request for documents and testimony,” wrote attorney, Robert Costello.
The claim that Bannon might be covered by the former president’s privilege is unusual, as Bannon was not working for the federal government during the time surrounding the Jan.6 insurgency.
Claims of privilege normally apply to relatives of the president and deliberations between government employees, and Bannon was fired from his role as White House adviser in 2017.
Many legal experts agree with the committee that Bannon, as a private citizen, would not have standing to block a subpoena on the basis of executive privilege.
Historic cases of criminal contempt
Serious as a referral for criminal contempt may seem, the House’s choice to use the Department of Justice may be more of a wake-up call than a solution. Holding Bannon for criminal contempt through a lawsuit could take years, and historic cases of criminal contempt have been derailed with appeals and acquittals.
“They’re in a box, sort of,” Stanley Brand, a former House general counsel, said Wednesday. “Any road they are going to take is legal donnybrook, it will potentially take some time.”
“I watch people on TV talking about this. They will send [Bannon] to criminal contempt. OKAY. Fine. This is just the beginning of the case, ”Brand, who was the House’s attorney general in the Lavelle contempt proceedings, told CNN. “There is a trial. It is not automatic that they are condemned. ”
The criminal contempt approach is also structured to be more of a punishment than an attempt to coerce a witness into speaking.
“It’s not like civil contempt, where you hold the keys to your jail cell and get released,” if a witness agrees to testify, Brand said.
Instead, the House essentially loses control of the case as the Justice Department takes over to prosecute.
“They don’t have time,” Brand added. “They have to do this before next year, before there is an election.”
CNN’s Christie Johnson contributed to this report.