Congress plots criminal charge for ex-Trump aide

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Steve Bannon

A committee investigating the Capitol riot says it will pursue criminal charges against former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon next week.

Mr Bannon was scheduled to testify before a congressional committee investigating the riot on Thursday.

He did not appear, prompting the head of the committee to schedule a Tuesday vote to hold him in criminal contempt.

If convicted, Mr Bannon faces a fine and up to one year in prison. Democrats say he is trying to delay the probe.

Mr Bannon has been asked to testify before Congress regarding his communication with Mr Trump a week before the riot and his involvement in discussing plans to overturn the election results.

Mr Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC on 6 January in a failed bid to overturn the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Subpoena documents quoted Mr Bannon as saying “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow” on the eve of the riot, which left five dead.

Mr Bannon argues that executive privilege, which shields some presidential communications, protects his discussions with Mr Trump. His lawyers say he will continue to resist until a court has ruled on the matter.

On Tuesday, the Democratic-led committee that is investigating the riot will vote on a report arguing that Mr Bannon is in contempt of Congress by wilfully refusing to cooperate.

The full House of Representatives – which will reconvene next week – would then have to vote on whether Mr Bannon is in contempt.

If it does, the case will be referred to federal officials for criminal prosecution.

Mr Bannon has repeatedly said he has no plans to appear before the committee.

He was fired from the White House in 2017 and was not in government at the time of the 6 January riot.

Hundreds of Mr Trump’s supporters have since been arrested for their actions that day.

In August, the congressional investigating committee asked for records relating to the day’s events, including communications from Mr Trump, members of his family, his top aides, his lawyers and other former members of his administration.

The committee has also ordered the testimony of Mr Trump’s ex-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Dan Scavino, Mr Trump’s social media manager; and Kash Patel, a former Pentagon chief of staff.

Mr Meadows and Mr Patel were co-operating with the inquiry, committee leaders Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republican Liz Cheney said last week.

US media report Mr Trump has asked all four former officials to refuse to comply with the inquiry.

Democrats argue that Mr Bannon is employing a delaying tactic in an attempt to push back proceedings until after the midterm elections in November 2022, which may change the composition of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress.

On Friday Mr Trump – who has never conceded losing the election to Mr Biden – accused Democrats in Congress of using the committee to “persecute their political opponents”.