The House voted Thursday to hold Steve Bannon, a longtime ally and aide to former President Donald Trump, in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the committee investigating the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
In a rare show of bipartisanship on the House floor, the committee’s Democratic chairman, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, led the floor debate along with Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, one of two Republicans on the panel. Still, the vote was 229-202 with most GOP lawmakers voting “no,” despite the potential consequences for Congress if witnesses are allowed to ignore its demands.
The House vote sends the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, where it will now be up to prosecutors in that office to decide whether to present the case to a grand jury for possible criminal charges.
The partisan split over Bannon’s subpoena — and over the committee’s investigation in general — is emblematic of the raw tensions that still grip Congress nine months after the Capitol attack. Democrats have vowed to comprehensively probe the assault in which hundreds of Trump’s supporters battered their way past police, injured dozens of officers and interrupted the electoral count certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.
Lawmakers on the investigating committee say they will move swiftly and forcefully to punish anyone who won’t cooperate with the probe.
“We will not allow anyone to derail our work, because our work is too important,” Thompson said ahead of the vote.
Republicans call it a “witch hunt,” say it is a waste of time and argue that Congress should be focusing on more important matters.
Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, leading the GOP opposition on the floor, called the probe an “illicit criminal investigation into American citizens” and said Bannon is a “Democrat party boogeyman.”
Cheney and Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger are the only two Republicans on the Jan. 6 panel. Both have openly criticized Trump and his role in fomenting the insurrection, even as other Republicans have mostly remained silent in the face of Trump’s falsehoods about massive fraud in the election. Trump’s claims were rejected by election officials, courts across the country and by his own attorney general.