Steve Bannon: Congress plans criminal charge for former Trump aide

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Steve Bannon

A committee investigating the 6 January Capitol riot has said it will pursue criminal charges against former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon next week.

Mr Bannon had been summoned to testify before the congressional panel 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 - a former right-wing media executive who became Mr Trump's chief strategist - was fired from the White House in 2017 and was not in government at the time of the January riot.

But he has been asked to testify regarding his communication with Mr Trump a week before the incident - as well as his involvement in discussing plans to overturn the election results that saw Joe Biden win the White House.

Mr Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC on 6 January in a failed bid to overturn the certification of Mr Biden's victory. Hundreds of Mr Trump's supporters have since been arrested for their actions that day.

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

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

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 balance of power in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress.

On Tuesday, the Democratic-led investigative committee will decide whether to refer the contempt charge for a full House vote.

House lawmakers would then have to rule on whether Mr Bannon is in contempt. If the Democratic-majority House votes yes, the case will be referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.

While this latest development is not surprising, with Democrats controlling both Congress and the presidency, this may be a rare instance where a congressional contempt charge has some teeth.

It also comes as the Democratic base demand accountability for the Trump administration's actions, calling on their members in Congress to flex their oversight muscles.

In August, the House 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.

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".

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