A congressional committee investigating the January 6 insurrection in Washington DC could recommend criminal contempt charges against former White House aide Steve Bannon as he defies a subpoena for documents and testimony about his interactions with ex-president Donald Trump ahead of the violent siege of the Capitol.
he committee scheduled a deposition with Mr Bannon yesterday, but his lawyer has said that at Mr Trump’s direction he will not appear.
A second witness called for a deposition yesterday, former Defence Department official Kashyap Patel, also will not appear, according to two people familiar with the confidential negotiations who were granted anonymity to discuss them. However, Mr Patel is still engaging with the committee.
Two other aides who worked for Mr Trump – former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and long-time Trump social media director Dan Scavino – are scheduled for depositions today.
It is unclear whether they will appear. Like Mr Patel, Mr Meadows is speaking with the committee.
Mr Bannon’s testimony is only one facet of an escalating congressional inquiry, with 19 subpoenas issued so far and thousands of pages of documents flowing in.
His defiance is a crucial moment for the committee, whose members are vowing to restore the force of congressional subpoenas after they were routinely flouted during Mr Trump’s time in office.
Members of the committee have threatened to pursue criminal contempt charges against subpoenaed witnesses who refuse to comply. A House vote would send those charges to the Justice Department, which would then decide whether to prosecute.
But that process could take months, if not years, even if the department decides to pursue charges, and such contempt cases are notoriously difficult to win.
Still, other witnesses are cooperating, including some who staffed the Trump rally on the Ellipse behind the White House that preceded the riot.
The committee subpoenaed 11 rally organisers and gave them a Wednesday deadline to turn over documents and records.
They have also been asked to appear at scheduled depositions.
Among those responding was Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm was hired to provide security that day. “All the documents and communications requested by the subpoena were handed in,” he said.
Two long-time Trump campaign and White House staffers, Megan Powers and Hannah Salem, who were listed on the January 6 rally permit as “operations manager for scheduling and guidance” and “operations manager for logistics and communications”, have provided documents or are planning to do so.
It is unclear whether the others who were subpoenaed intend to cooperate. A committee spokesperson declined to comment on the responses received and how many of the 11 were complying.
Many of the rioters who stormed the Capitol marched up the National Mall after attending at least part of Mr Trump’s rally, at which he repeated his meritless claims of election fraud and implored the crowd to “fight like hell”.
Dozens of police officers were injured as the Trump supporters then broke through windows and doors and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.