Bannon eyed as key link between White House, Jan. 6 riot

The Jan. 6 committee’s vote to refer former Trump strategist Steve Bannon for criminal charges is putting a spotlight on the central role he may have played in organizing the day and the extent to which he coordinated with the White House and former President Trump. 

As lawmakers on the House committee voted unanimously Tuesday to forward Bannon to the Justice Department for failure to comply with their subpoena, a repeated refrain was the importance he could play in connecting the day’s events and its participants.

“Based on the committee’s investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advance knowledge of the plans for January 6th and likely had an important role in formulating those plans,” Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the pane’s vice chair, said at the committee meeting.

“Mr. Bannon was in the war room at the Willard on Jan. 6th. He also appears to have detailed knowledge regarding the president’s efforts to sell millions of Americans the fraud that the election was stolen,” she said.

The full House will vote on the matter Thursday, kicking to the Justice Department the decision of whether to file charges against Bannon, something that could mean a fine, jail time or both for the onetime White House employee.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chair of the special panel, on Tuesday questioned why Bannon would be a “martyr” for Trump, who fired him after just a few months at the White House but ultimately pardoned the former aide on his last day in office as Bannon faced charges related to fundraising for Trump’s border wall.

Their rocky relationship appears to have rebounded ahead of Jan. 6 as Bannon met with rally organizers and promoted the event on his podcast.

“It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen. … All I can say is strap in. … You made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day, so strap in,” Bannon told listeners.

“His testimony is important because he was predicting that all hell was going to break loose on Jan. 6 and he was reportedly in communication with the president in proximity to the 6th, in multiple communications with the White House leading up to that day,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of nine members on the Jan. 6 committee, told reporters.

“The biggest, I think, unknowns about Jan. 6 go to the president’s role before, during and after, and we’re determined to find out.”

The full details of Bannon’s subpoena, not released by the committee until Monday, asked him to detail any involvement Trump had in planning the rally on Jan. 6, as well as any conversions he had with anyone else at the White House about the former president’s remarks at the rally.

It also asks whether Bannon had any communication with Kash Patel, the chief of staff to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, or Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a staunch Trump defender who has emerged as a key figure in Trump’s pressure campaign on the Justice Department in the waning days of his presidency.

The committee’s focus on the rally where Trump spoke shortly before his supporters stormed the Capitol has come into sharper focus in recent weeks.

The panel subpoenaed 11 of the main organizers of Women for America First, which organized the rally on the Ellipse where Trump spoke and told supporters to “fight like hell.” The group includes Katrina Pierson, Trump’s former campaign spokeswoman.

It also subpoenaed Ali Alexander, a right-wing provocateur and “Stop the Steal” organizer who secured a permit on the Capitol grounds and, according to the committee, directed attendees of the earlier rally to march to that spot after it concluded.

Many of Bannon’s comments the day before the rally are now coming under even closer scrutiny.

“On Jan. 5, the day before the riots and the insurrection took place, Bannon said ‘All hell is going to break loose’ and warned, or advertised essentially, that this was going to be an absolute game-changer in American politics and urged everybody to watch in order to participate in it,” Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters after the vote.

“So he clearly has evidence about what took place, and he owes that evidence to the United States Congress, because he’s been subpoenaed.”

A lawyer for Bannon told the committee that he would not comply with the committee’s subpoena until the courts resolved claims from Trump seeking to block documents and witness testimony, making an executive privilege claim.

But lawmakers on the committee say those arguments have little merit, as executive privilege has only been used by sitting presidents.

Bannon’s brief stint in the White House also ended long before the time period in question by the committee and deals only with his actions as a private citizen.

“Steve Bannon didn’t even work for Donald Trump at that time, he’d been fired in August of 2017 by President Trump. He wasn’t even an employee of the government, so he’s just like anybody in this room,” Raskin said.

“He’s like anybody who’s subpoenaed to bring in evidence that he’s got about this violent assault on the Congress, this attempt to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. He has no colorable claim whatsoever of executive privilege.” 

President Biden already waived executive privilege rights to a trove of documents requested by the committee that covered a wide range of Trump White House matters, seeking all documents and communication in any way related to the president’s wife, adult children, and nearly all of his top aides and advisers.

But Cheney said Trump’s executive privilege fight is in itself significant.

“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however,’” the Wyoming Republican said at the hearing.

“They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of Jan. 6th. And we will get to the bottom of that.”

Tags Adam Schiff Bennie Thompson Capitol riot Donald Trump Jan. 6 panel Joe Biden Liz Cheney Scott Perry Steve Bannon
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