WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will hold a vote next week to recommend that Stephen K. Bannon, a former top adviser to President Donald J. Trump, face criminal charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena.
The move would escalate what appears to be a major legal battle between the select committee and the former president over access to crucial witnesses and documents that could shed light on what sparked the riot as a pro-Trump mob stormed and disrupted the Capitol. The formal count of votes that confirmed President Biden’s election.
It came after Mr. Bannon informed the panel that he would be defying a subpoena under a directive from Mr. Trump, who has told former aides and advisers not to participate in the investigation because he claims executive privilege, which may protect White House deliberations or documents involving the president may not be made public.
“Mr. Bannon has refused to cooperate with the select committee and is instead hiding behind the former president’s inadequate, general and vague statements regarding privileges he claimed to be invoking,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of the United States. Mississippi and the committee chair, in a statement. “We completely reject his position. The select committee will not tolerate opposition to our subpoenas, so we must continue proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.”
Under federal law, any person called as a congressional witness who refuses to comply can face a felony charge with a $100 to $100,000 fine and jail time ranging from one month to one year.
The committee, which is controlled by Democrats, is expected to agree to such sentences on Tuesday. That would send the contempt quote to the full House, where Democrats almost certainly have the votes to approve it. The case would then be sent to the Department of Justice with the recommendation that officials file a lawsuit against Mr. bannon.
The cumbersome procedure reflects a challenging reality Democrats grapple with as they work to advance the investigation. Congress is a legislative body, not a law enforcement agency, and its ability to enforce cooperation and sanction misconduct is inherently limited. The investigative tools are only as powerful as the courts decide, and the process of legal battle to secure crucial information and witnesses is likely to be lengthy.
Robert J. Costello, an attorney for Mr. Bannon, in a letter to the commission on Wednesday, said his client would not submit any documents or testimony “until you reach an agreement with President Trump” on claims of executive privilege “or get a court ruling.”
The Biden administration has refused to extend the privilege to Mr Trump, but the question could go to court. And in the case of Mr. Bannon, who has not been an executive officer since he left the White House in 2017, the allegation is particularly weak, as it relates to conversations or documents related to the Jan. 6 attack.
In the first set of subpoenas, the select committee ordered four former Trump administration officials — Mr. Bannon; Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Dan Scavino Jr., a deputy chief of staff; and Kash Patel, a Pentagon chief of staff — to be on hand this week to provide statements and provide documents and other material relevant to the investigation.
The committee has said that Mr Meadows and Mr Patel communicated with the panel. A source with knowledge of the committee’s negotiations said lawmakers would likely grant the two men a reprieve before testifying. mr. Scavino got his subpoena last week.
On Wednesday, the commission issued a subpoena against Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who was involved in Mr Trump’s efforts to undo the 2020 presidential election. The committee’s action came the same day it heard lengthy closed-door testimony from Jeffrey A. Rosen, the former acting attorney general, who has testified publicly and privately about the final days of the Trump administration, when the former president pressured top officials to use the Justice Department to make false claims of fraud and invalidate the election results.
In personal testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rosen said that Mr. Clark had told him that Mr. Trump was preparing to fire Mr. Rosen and endorse Mr. Clark’s strategy of pursuing conspiracy theories. striving about hacking polling booths and election fraud.
“Well, I can’t be fired by someone who works for me,” Mr. Rosen told Mr. Clark.