The House voted to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before a panel created to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
While Bannon wasn’t working at the White House in January, he talked to Trump ahead of the rally near the Capitol that day. He helped plan it, according to Democratic lawmakers and Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, the two GOP lawmakers willing to participate on the committee.
Bannon served as White House chief strategist and senior counselor to the president in 2017 and had reestablished contact with Trump after being pushed out of his administration position. Bannon has refused to testify before the Jan. 6 panel, citing executive privilege, but lawmakers see him as a crucial part of their effort to implicate Trump.
“His testimony is important because he was predicting all hell would break loose,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters this week.
Schiff, a California Democrat and staunch Trump foe, sits on the nine-member panel and is eager to tie the former president, and perhaps some of his House GOP allies, to the violent riots at the Capitol.
Bannon, Schiff said, “was reportedly in communication with the president in proximity to the 6th and in multiple communications with the White House leading up to that day.”
Lawmakers on the panel point to Bannon’s Jan. 5 podcast, in which he suggested the rally Trump planned for Jan. 6 just blocks from the Capitol would be anything but peaceful.
“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said. “It’s all converging, and now, we’re on the point of attack tomorrow.”
Bannon, like Trump, said he believed the presidential election was wrongfully decided for Joe Biden thanks to alleged rampant election fraud, and he helped coordinate “Stop the Steal” rallies after Election Day in a bid to force recount efforts in several states.
Bannon was among the close Trump allies, including Republican members of Congress, who positioned themselves at a nearby hotel during the Jan. 6 rally, where they watched the events unfold.
The Jan. 6 committee outlined the reason for seeking Bannon’s testimony in the contempt resolution against Bannon.
“Mr. Bannon appears to have had multiple roles relevant to this investigation, including his role in constructing and participating in the ‘stop the steal’ public relations effort that motivated the attack, his efforts to plan political and other activity in advance of January 6, and his participation in the events of that day from a ‘war room’ organized at the Willard InterContinental Washington D.C. Hotel,” panel lawmakers wrote.
The Jan. 6 panel has issued dozens of subpoenas and requests for testimony and documents from Trump advisers and associates, as well as those who helped organize the Jan. 6 rally, in a bid to determine what and who inspired the rioters to push their way into the Capitol following Trump’s speech near the Ellipse that day.
Trump called on rallygoers to march to the Capitol, where lawmakers were meeting to certify Biden’s presidential victory.
"I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” Trump said.
Trump also told the crowd, "We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.”
Thousands of protesters surrounded the building, and hundreds pushed their way in, breaking windows and violently forcing themselves past police officers. The melee sent lawmakers running for safety and caused damage throughout the historic building. Protester Ashli Babbitt was shot dead by a police officer, and several others died during and after the event.
Trump’s legal team is working to prevent former aides from testifying before the panel. Trump is suing the National Archives and the Jan. 6 committee, seeking to block the release of documents sought by the panel that panel lawmakers say they need for their investigation.
However, Schiff and the rest of the panel have no plans to curtail their investigation and believe their efforts will eventually lead to the former president, who looms large as a 2024 political threat.
“One of the biggest unknowns about Jan. 6 go to the president's role before, during, and after,” Schiff said. “And we're determined to find out.”