Investigative journalist Bob Woodward said his reporting shows "seven conspiratorial actions" between former President Donald Trump and Steve Bannon as part of an effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Claiming to have made a new discovery, Woodward said his book, Peril, which he wrote with fellow Washington Post journalist Robert Costa, lays out the blueprint of a scandal akin to the Watergate controversy that is now under investigation by a House select committee looking into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
"I just looked back at what we have in the book, and quite directly, we have the dots. We didn't connect them, though they're there," Woodward said during a CNN interview Thursday.
"There are seven conspiratorial actions by Trump and Bannon, essentially, to subvert and destroy the process of certifying who the next president is going to be. And when you think about it, it's just like Watergate."
Woodward, who helped expose the 1970s Watergate scandal in the Nixon administration with Carl Bernstein, came on the air after CNN's John Berman played a clip of Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the Jan. 6 panel, tying Trump to Bannon in the lead-up to the Capitol riot.
"It appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advanced knowledge of the plans for Jan. 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans," Cheney said at the select committee meeting. "Mr. Bannon was in the 'war room' at the Willard on Jan. 6. He also appears to have detailed knowledge regarding the president's efforts to sell millions of Americans the fraud that the election was stolen."
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Bannon served as Trump's White House chief strategist for much of 2017. And although he was not a member of the administration around the time of the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 siege of Congress as lawmakers met in Washington to certify Joe Biden's electoral victory, he had reemerged as a force on the outside boosting Trump. Bannon acted as a senior political adviser behind an effort, centered in what allies called a "command center" at the Willard InterContinental Washington hotel, to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Woodward picked up a page of notes and went over some of the "conspiratorial actions" he had mentioned.
"First of all, on Dec. 30, Bannon talks to Trump and says, 'You've got to make a dramatic return to Washington,'" Woodward said, paraphrasing some of the quotes in Peril. "Trump is in Mar-a-Lago, he's going to have the New Year's Eve party down there, but he comes back, and Bannon says to Trump, 'You've got to call Vice President Pence off the ski slopes,' where Pence's staff and advisers have kind of stashed him away because they know in a week he's going to have to certify or decide what he's going to do about who the next president is. And then, Bannon says to Trump, 'Jan. 6 is the moment of reckoning here,' and if we can challenge the legitimacy of Biden, it casts a shadow over the Biden presidency, and then, he says, 'We are going to kill the Biden presidency in the crib.' The violent language, of course, it was manifest, the violence itself, on Jan. 6."
"Then, on Jan. 5, as Liz Cheney was pointing out, Bannon meets with others, including Rudy Giuliani and their phony Republicans, to block the certification of Biden, and then, you put all this in, and Trump put out a phony statement at the time — this is on the public record — saying he and Pence agreed that Pence has the power to walk away and essentially get Trump certified as president. But that's totally untrue," Woodward added.
Despite pressure from Trump and the chaos on Jan. 6, Pence did not try to send the results back to certain states Trump lost in November. In fact, he sent a letter to Congress saying he did not have the power to reject Electoral College votes, dealing a further blow to Trump’s hopes to deny a presidential victory to Biden.
The House voted Thursday to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the select committee. Before that, during her speech, Cheney, a Republican, said arguments made by Trump and Bannon that relevant information sought by the committee is protected by executive privilege "appear to reveal" that Trump was "personally involved in the planning and execution" of the events on Jan. 6.
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If the Justice Department prosecutes Bannon and he is convicted, he could face fines up to $100,000 and up to a year in prison. Woodward predicted the Justice Department will go further and appoint a special counsel.
"We have a very clear-cut case. I would suspect it is quite possible that Attorney General Merrick Garland will appoint a special counsel to look at this, because the evidence is so clear for a massive Watergate-style attempt to destroy the process of electing a president," Woodward said.