A House committee tasked with investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection is moving swiftly Tuesday to hold at least one of Donald Trump”s allies in contempt as the former president is pushing back on the probe in a new lawsuit.
Trump is aggressively trying to block the committee’s work by directing former White House aide Steve Bannon not to answer questions in the probe while also suing the panel to try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents.
But lawmakers on the House committee say they will not back down as they gather facts and testimony about the attack involving Trump’s supporters that left dozens of police officers injured, sent lawmakers running for their lives and interrupted the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
“The former president’s clear objective is to stop the Select Committee from getting to the facts about January 6th and his lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to delay and obstruct our probe,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the panel’s vice chairwoman, in a joint statement late Monday.
They added: “It’s hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.”
Trump’s lawsuit was filed after Biden decided to waive his right to block the document release over executive privilege concerns. The move was expected, as the defeated president has repeatedly made clear that he will challenge the investigation of the violent attack by a mob of his supporters.
His challenge seeks to invalidate the entirety of the congressional request, calling it overly broad, unduly burdensome and a challenge to separation of powers.
The lawsuit came a day before the panel is scheduled to vote to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt of Congress for his defiance of the committee’s demands for documents and testimony.
In a resolution released Monday, and scheduled to be voted out of the panel on Tuesday, the committee asserts that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal standing to rebuff the committee.
Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack, the committee said, and Trump has not asserted any such executive privilege claims to the panel itself.
The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the leadup to the insurrection, including reports that he encouraged Trump to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.
Once the committee votes on the Bannon contempt measure, it will go to the full House for a vote and then on to the Justice Department, which would decide whether to prosecute.
The committee has also subpoenaed more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump rallies ahead of the siege, and some of them have already said they would turn over documents and give testimony.
The committee has demanded a broad range of executive branch papers related to intelligence gathered before the attack, security preparations during and before the siege, the pro-Trump rallies held that day and Trump’s false claims that he won the election, among other matters.