Press: Steve Bannon behind bars in Capitol basement?
For those of you who relish the image of Steve Bannon behind bars in the Capitol basement jail (and, I admit, I’m one of you), I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is: All rumors to the contrary, there is no jail in the Capitol basement. At one time, according to the Architect of the Capitol, there was such a jail where the Congress could imprison citizens who refused to comply with its subpoenas. But, no matter how badly needed today, that cell was closed and converted to some other use a long time ago.
The good news is: Unless he changes his tune and agrees to testify before the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack on the Capitol, Steve Bannon may soon be behind bars anyway, in the closest jail cell available. And should be.
The first step is to charge him with contempt — and that could happen as early as today. According to Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Republicans and Democrats on the committee are “completely of one mind” to hold Bannon in criminal contempt for his refusal to cooperate with the panel’s subpoena — and refer him to the Justice Department for prosecution. That vote is scheduled for later today, Tuesday, Oct. 19.
Bannon’s one of four former Trump aides subpoenaed to testify before the select committee on events leading up to and on Jan. 6 — all four of whom were directed by former President Trump not to comply. Reportedly, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Defense Department aide Kash Patel are negotiating terms with the committee. Former deputy White House chief of staff Dan Scavino has yet to be served. Only Bannon so far has refused to cooperate.
While Bannon may relish playing his cat-and-mouse game with the committee, he has three strikes against him. One, he was fully aware of pending chaos on Jan. 6. He told listeners to his radio show on Jan. 5: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” And again on the morning of Jan. 6 he warned: “Today’s not just a rally. At one o’clock that starts and there’s going to be some pretty controversial things going on.” What did he know, and when did he know it?
Two, having been fired by Trump in 2017, Bannon was no longer part of the White House staff and therefore is in no way protected by “executive privilege,” not even under the phony claim Trump’s now making to block any efforts by him or former staffers to comply with Congress.
Three, by refusing to testify, Bannon’s clearly breaking federal law. According to 18 U.S. Code Section 1505, whoever “influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law” by government departments, agencies, and committees is subject to a fine and five years in prison. Case closed.
This isn’t the first time Bannon’s defied a congressional investigation. He also refused to appear before the House committee investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia. But, of course, that’s when Trump was still in the White House and Bannon knew the Trump Justice Department would never hold him in contempt.
But times have changed, and the stakes are higher. “Those days are over,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told MSNBC last week. Today, with both the select committee and the Biden administration determined to use the full force of the law to uncover the truth about Jan. 6, it’s only a matter of time before Steve Bannon is either before the committee or behind bars.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”