House

Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention'

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday said holding ex-Trump White House strategist Stephen Bannon in criminal contempt would be "a way of getting people's attention," as the select committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol works to ramp up its investigation of the deadly riots.

"If the Justice Department prosecutes Steve Bannon, other witnesses will see they will face real consequences, including jail time and potentially stiff fines. That is a way of getting people's attention," Schiff told host Jim Acosta during an interview on "CNN Newsroom."

"So, you know, Bannon's an important witness in his own right, but - but it's also important to send a message that the rule of law is back and people are going to need to pay attention," Schiff, who sits on the select committee, added.

The select committee announced on Thursday that it would pursue criminal prosecution against Bannon after the ex-Trump White House strategist failed to appear for a scheduled deposition.

Bannon told the congressional panel last week that he would not comply with the subpoena. The former strategist is arguing that a yet-to-be-filed suit from former President Trump shows that the requested materials and testimony are protected by executive privilege.

The select committee will now convene on Tuesday evening to take up a criminal contempt report, which will outline steps the panel took to get Bannon to comply with the subpoena, and his refusal to do so.

The report will then be brought before the House for a vote. If it passes, it will be sent to the Justice Department, where the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C., and top lawyers at the department will decide how aggressively they want to pursue Bannon's compliance with the subpoena.

Asked by Acosta on Sunday about the chances of getting Bannon to testify, Schiff said the panel's "chances are actually very good" - despite the arduous process of pursuing criminal contempt.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee emphasized the importance of hearing Bannon testify, as he was one of Trump's closest advisers in the days leading up to Jan. 6.

"I think the biggest area where we still have so much to learn is around the president's conduct. In the days leading up to Jan. 6, on that day itself, Steve Bannon was one of the president's closest advisers," Schiff said.

"He was predicting that all hell was going to break loose on Jan. 6. So he clearly has relevant information to share with the committee, and we're going to make sure that he does," he added.

In addition to Bannon, the select committee has also subpoenaed former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino and Kashyap Patel, the former chief of staff to then-acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.

Those three, however, have all been granted short postponements by the committee for their depositions, according to CNN. The panel last week said Meadows and Patel have so far been "engaging" with the committee.

When asked by Acosta what "engaging with the committee," means, Schiff said the panel is trying to show that "we're going to every length to secure people's testimony without having to prosecute them."

"But at the end of the day, if they're not going to cooperate, we will do exactly what we're doing with Steve Bannon," Schiff said.

"So that's - that's the plan; no one is off the table; no remedy is off the table. And we feel a real sense of urgency," he added.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the select committee, sounded a similar note on Thursday, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer that "nobody is off limits to a subpoena" from the panel when asked about a potential subpoena for Trump.

"Well, I would say this at this point, Wolf, nobody is off limits to a subpoena from this committee," Thompson said. 

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