The House select committee probing the Jan. 6. insurrection at the U.S. Capitol said on Friday that they could seek criminal contempt charges against former Donald Trump aides who defy subpoenas.
Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), the chair and vice chair of the investigatory committee, respectively, said in a statement that they "will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral."
"The Committee is making rapid progress and will not be deterred by those who seek to obstruct our efforts," the statement adds.
The statement comes after Trump instructed four of his former aides — former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Daniel Scavino, former Defense Department official Kash Patel, and former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon — to ignore subpoenas from the select committee.
The subpoenas instructed the four aides to produce requested documents by Thursday. The committee also set up depositions for the four men to take place on Oct. 14 and Oct. 15.
The committee said in the Friday statement that two of the four subpoenaed witnesses — Meadows and Patel — are already working with the committee.
But Bannon said Friday through his lawyers he is defying the subpoena, citing Trump's request.
Bannon's legal team wrote in a letter to the committee that, "the executive privileges belong to President Trump" and that Bannon "must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege."
However, legal experts say Trump's executive privilege claim is "bogus."
"Bannon was in the Trump administration for 6 months, leaving in 8/17. There's NO EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE COVERING HIM IN 2020!" MSNBC Legal Analyst Glenn Kirschner tweeted. "Congress, USE YOUR INHERENT CONTEMPT POWER ON BANNON! Give the courts the chance to reaffirm that it's a lawful Congressional tool."
Already, the Biden White House said in September that it is not going to invoke executive privilege on documents the committee requests.
And on Friday, NBC News reported that Biden's White House formally blocked Trump's attempt to withhold records for the investigation.
"President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents," White House Counsel Dana Remus wrote in a letter to the National Archives, according to NBC News.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), one of the members of the select committee, said the executive privilege claim from Trump is moot anyway.
"There's no president involved — there's no such thing as a former president's executive privilege," Raskin told the Washington Post in September. "That's extremely dilute and not really relevant."
The bipartisan select committee is probing the origins of the Jan. 6 insurrection, and coming up with a plan on how to prevent similar attacks in the future.
So far, the committee has subpoenaed more than a dozen people tied to the attack, including former Trump aides, and people tied to the "Stop the Steal" rallies that preceded the attack at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
"The Select Committee is investigating the facts, circumstances, and causes of the January 6th attack and issues relating to the peaceful transfer of power, in order to identify and evaluate lessons learned and to recommend to the House and its relevant committees corrective laws, policies, procedures rules, or regulations. The inquiry includes examination of how various individuals and entities coordinated their activities leading up to the events of January 6, 2021," Thompson wrote in a statement on Sept. 29 announcing a host of subpoenas.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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