Congress Votes to Hold Steve Bannon in Contempt of Congress Furthering Partisan Divides
21:05 GMT 22.10.2021 (Updated: 20:34 GMT 19.10.2022)
© AP Photo / Evan VucciWhite House chief strategist Steve Bannon listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with county sheriffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington
© AP Photo / Evan Vucci
The House of Representatives has voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress and has asked the Justice Department to criminally prosecute him over his refusal to cooperate with the investigation over the January 6th US Capitol attack.
The vote broke down largely along party lines, 229-202, with nine Republicans voting in favor of the resolution. Steve Bannon is viewed as a key witness in the lead-up to the January 6th US Capitol attack.
The legal recourse for Bannon remains dubious. He could be threatened with jail time and fines over his contempt, but coming to a legal verdict could take years, even if successful.
Dr. Nicholas Waddy, associate professor of history at State University of New York at Alfred, believes that Bannon will avoid jail time and fines, saying “It is far more likely that the Department of Justice will decline to prosecute, or that a compromise will be negotiated between the committee and Steve Bannon's lawyers.”
21 October 2021, 20:10 GMT
Democrats insist the investigation is not political, a stance Republicans in Congress refute, but the fact remains there is an expiration date on getting Bannon to cooperate. Democrats know they need the January 6th Capitol attack investigation to have a resolution before the 2022 midterm elections.
“The political fact is that Steve Bannon is the only thing the Democrats have that most Americans can support. They will do anything to keep this issue alive before the 2022 midterm elections. Remember, the party in power in the White House usually loses 15-20 seats in the House in the first midterm election,” Professor David Woodard, Clemson University political scientist, put it.
The political calculus for Democrats, in regards to Bannon, is twofold. First, he could very well be guilty of a crime, and information he possesses could aid their case that President Trump played a role in the January 6th Capitol attack. Second, they believe that keeping Bannon in the news and the January 6th attack at the forefront of voters’ minds will aid them in midterm elections.
Dr. Harvey Schantz, professor of political science at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, summarized a recent Quinnipiac Poll: “[The poll] found that 40 percent of the American public “want to hear more information about what led up to the events” of January 6. But only 22 percent of Republicans were interested in hearing more, as compared to 59 percent of Democrats. Three-quarters of Republicans, 74 percent, felt that there was “enough already known” about the events leading up to “the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.”
Americans’ views on January 6th, and by extension Steve Bannon, break down along party lines. However, the committee investigating the January 6th Capitol attack have reason to believe that Steve Bannon has information that will allow them to have a complete record of the event.
Bannon was President Trump’s chief strategist and Senior Counselor before leaving the post just eight months into Trump’s presidency. In 2018, following the release of the book “Fire and Fury,” Trump disavowed Bannon over disparaging remarks he made about the President’s eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump.
"Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency," Trump said in response to Bannon’s comments.
20 October 2021, 18:58 GMT
"When [Bannon] was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump later added.
Even though Trump disavowed him, Bannon remained an ally to the Trump Presidency through his news platform Breitbart News. In Bob Woodward’s book “Peril,” he reported that following Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 US presidential election, Bannon once again entered Trump’s orbit.
He is quoted as saying "We're going to bury Biden on January 6th," and "to plan for and focus his efforts on January 6."
On January 5th, 2021, the day before the Capitol attack, he said on his podcast, "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. ... So many people said, 'Man, if I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.' Well, this is your time in history."
Congress holding Steve Bannon in contempt is just the first step in what could be a long and ugly legal fight. Even if Bannon is forced to testify, he cannot be forced to answer Congress’ questions. Steve Bannon is caught between two parties trying to control the narrative of the January 6th Capitol attack.