Lawmakers say vote to hold Steve Bannon in contempt could put other potential Jan. 6 witnesses 'on notice'

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In this Jan. 6, 2021 photo, the face of President Donald Trump appears on large screens as supporters participate in a rally in Washington. The House committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, with its latest round of subpoenas in September 2021, may uncover the degree to which former President Donald Trump, his campaign and White House were involved in planning the rally that preceded the riot, which had been billed as a grassroots demonstration.
In this Jan. 6, 2021 photo, the face of President Donald Trump appears on large screens as supporters participate in a rally in Washington. The House committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, with its latest round of subpoenas in September 2021, may uncover the degree to which former President Donald Trump, his campaign and White House were involved in planning the rally that preceded the riot, which had been billed as a grassroots demonstration.

WASHINGTON – The House voted Thursday to hold former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt over his refusal to cooperate with the panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack, handing out a sanction that lawmakers said could send a signal to other potential witnesses.

Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist for the first few months of the Trump presidency, ignored subpoenas from the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. said the messages the committee is trying to send are first "to him, that he has violated the law, and should be prosecuted for it."

And second, "if other people are thinking about violating the law, they might know that they could be in the same spot," she said.

The Select Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to hold Bannon in congressional contempt, and the full House chamber voted 229-202 on Thursday with all Democrats voting in favor, and most Republicans voting against.

Nine Republicans, including Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who both serve on the Jan. 6 committee, voted in favor of holding Bannon in contempt.

More: House votes to hold former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress

The Select Committee has issued subpoenas to several other figures from Trump's orbit, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and longtime Trump social media director Dan Scavino, with the aim of pressing them on what they knew before the the deadly assault.

Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said at the committee vote Tuesday that if others choose not to comply, they would face similar contempt charges.

“I want other witnesses to understand something very plainly: If you’re thinking of following the path Mr. Bannon has gone down, you’re on notice that this is what you’ll face,” Thompson said.

Lawmakers want to know about any communications Bannon had with Trump in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 riot, which occurred as lawmakers and Vice President Mike Pence gathered in a special session to formally count the Electoral College votes that established Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., another member of the Jan. 6 Committee, told USA TODAY it was not his intention to use Bannon to send messages to others the committee has or will be subpoenaing. But it may nonetheless.

"We have no interest in making (Bannon) into any more of an example than he already wishes to be," Raskin said. "He obviously is just playing this for PR value, but we're defending the rule of law."

Raskin said Bannon "blew off a congressional subpoena," and that's a crime: "I would hope that statutory penalty alone would be enough to deter other people, and to make it clear that you don't defy a congressional subpoena."

More: The Jan. 6 committee will vote to hold Bannon in contempt. Here's what we know

On Tuesday, Cheney, the vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee, urged her fellow Republican lawmakers to reject Trump's "big lie" about the 2020 election, and stop advancing baseless conspiracy theories to falsely argue it was stolen from him.

Cheney said that embracing such conspiracy theories was a "prescription for national self-destruction."

"The American people must know what happened, they must know the truth, all of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law, and to ensure that nothing like that dark day in January ever happens again," said Cheney, who was ousted from her House leadership role over her criticisms of Trump.

Now that lawmakers voted to hold Bannon in contempt, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will refer the charge to the Department of Justice, which would consider whether to prosecute.

Hours before the House voted on the recommendation to hold Bannon in contempt, Attorney General Merrick Garland made no commitment to pursue criminal charges when he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee.

But Garland vowed to "apply the facts and law consistent with the principles of prosecution."

Raskin noted Bannon could still show up and "invoke the Fifth Amendment" and has "privilege against self-incrimination. He has the right to do that under the Constitution. We can extend him ... immunity for the testimony that he thinks might implicate him in crimes."

But "he has no right to sit on his sofa and make a mockery out of congressional process," Raskin said.

Contributing: Kevin Johnson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: House votes to hold Steve Bannon in contempt for ignoring subpoena