Bannon’s lawyers wrote a letter to the panel Wednesday, saying the committee would not provide his statements or documents until the committee had considered executive privileges or a court of law with former President Donald Trump. “This is an issue between the committee and President Trump’s lawyers, and Mr. Bannon does not need to comment at this time,” lawyer Robert Costello wrote.
It may take some time before the House sends such a reference to the Justice Department, but within a few hours of the panel’s stated deadline – which is Thursday – if Bannon refuses to cooperate, preliminary steps could be taken, sources said. A growing sense of urgency around the investigation.
“Some of these witnesses, people like Steve Bannon, who are public about their contempt for Congress, think they can get away with it for four years, they did,” committee member Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC on Wednesday.
“The Trump Department of Justice will never take action against him. But those days are over. And I see that not only is it necessary for our investigation, but I also see that law enforcement is improving our democracy,” the California Democrat added.
CNN’s legal analyst Norm Eisen quickly backtracked on Costello’s letter on Wednesday, saying, “It’s just wrong. The letter says that ‘presidents’ can decide executive privileges. But Trump is no longer ‘president.’ In the United States, we have only one of them.” Yes, he is Joe Biden and he has not been privileged here. “
Three other Trump allies have also faced subpoena deadlines this week. Two of them, Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, and Kash Patel, a former administration official, are “engaged” with the committee, according to the panel, although it is still unclear whether that contact is for any kind of cooperation. Patel is not expected to appear before the committee on Thursday for his planned statement, several sources familiar with the plans told CNN.
Asked if Meadows and Patel would appear before the panel this weekend for their statement, Florida Democrat Committee member Ref Stephanie Murphy said, “I expect them to do patriotic work and appear before the committee, and if they have nothing to hide, why not show it?” No reason. ”
‘Waiting for Steve Bannon’s statement’
Bannon has not cooperated so far, and lawmakers accepted the opportunity before Thursday’s deadline that they are committed to doing so.
“I’m looking forward to Steve Bannon’s testimony tomorrow and receiving all the evidence and proof we’ve submitted,” Maryland Democrat selection committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin said in a tweet Wednesday. “Sharing information about the largest violent attack on Congress since the 1812 war is a legal order as well as a civic duty.”
In a letter to the committee earlier this month, Bannon’s lawyers argued that “executive privileges belong to President Trump” and that “we must accept his instructions and respect his appeal for executive privileges.”
The letter from Bannon’s legal team further states that it may be up to the court to decide whether he is finally forced to co-operate – essentially the House has the courage to sue or hold him for criminal contempt.
“As such, until these issues are resolved, we will not be able to respond to your request for documents and evidence,” lawyer Robert Costello wrote.
The claim that Bannon could be covered by the former president’s privilege is unusual, as Bannon was not working for the federal government during the January 6 uprising.
Privilege claims typically apply to officials around the president and to discussions among government employees, and in 2017 Bannon was removed from his position as White House adviser.
Many legal experts agree with the committee that Bannon, as a private citizen, has no role to play in preventing subpoena by claiming executive privilege.
Historical criminal contempt cases
As serious as criminal contempt referrals may seem, the choice of the House to use the Department of Justice may be more of a warning than a remedy. It could take years for Bannon to be held in criminal contempt by trial, and historic criminal contempt cases have been settled through appeals and acquittals.
“They’re in a box,” Stanley Brand, the House’s former general attorney, said Wednesday. “Whichever way they go is legal Donibrook, it will probably take time.”
“I’m watching people on TV blowout about it. They’re going to send it [Bannon] For criminal contempt. Okay. Okay. It just starts the case, “Brand, who was the House’s general counsel during Level’s contempt proceedings, told CNN.” There is a test. They are not automatic they will be blamed. ”
Criminal contempt is viewed as more of a punishment than an attempt to force a witness to speak.
“It’s not like a civil disgrace, where you leave holding the keys to your prison cell,” Brand said, if the witness agreed to testify.
Instead, the Department of Justice loses control of the House case for reasons of prosecution.
“They don’t have the time,” Brand added. “They have to complete this before next year before the election.”
CNN’s Christy Johnson contributed to this report.