US House panel to seek criminal contempt referral for Steve Bannon

Washington, Oct 15 (IANS): The US House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot said it moves to refer Steve Bannon, former President Donald Trump's former campaign adviser, to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution since he refused to appear for a slated deposition.

"Bannon has declined to cooperate with the Select Committee and is instead hiding behind the former President's insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke," the committee's chair Bennie Thompson said in a statement.

"We reject his position entirely. The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Bannon for criminal contempt. I've notified the Select Committee that we will convene for a business meeting Tuesday evening to vote on adopting a contempt report," said Thompson.

Bannon informed the committee last week that he would refuse to comply with the subpoena, citing a yet-to-be-filed suit from Trump claiming documents and testimony sought by the committee are covered by executive privilege, Xinhua news agency reported citing local media.

The US law allows for Congress to refer a non-compliant witness to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, which could result in jail time, a fine or both, said the report.

Bannon and his attorney did not immediately respond to request for comment, nor did the Department of Justice.

Besides Bannon, the panel also sent subpoenas last month to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and former Pentagon Chief of Staff Kash Patel.

In separate letters sent to each of the four former officials, the committee asked them to provide information on their involvement either in the lead-up to or in the aftermath of the riot.

Republicans have claimed that the select committee, whose members are mostly Democrats, is nothing but a tool for Democrats to gain partisan interests.

Some 140 police officers were reportedly injured when confronting Trump's supporters who breached the Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 US presidential election.

The Capitol riot left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

Four officers who responded to the riot reportedly died by suicide within seven months.

Trump was impeached by the Democrat-led House on one article of inciting insurrection on January 13 before being acquitted by the Senate.

He was the first-ever American President to have been impeached and tried twice.



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