Steve Bannon is “not required to respond” to a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol because former President Donald Trump says their communications are protected by executive privilege, his lawyer claimed in a letter Wednesday.
The move led select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) to announce Thursday that lawmakers would “move forward” next week to seek to have Bannon prosecuted for “criminal contempt.”
Trump then blasted the committee in a statement that accused its members of “using prosecutors and prosecutions to destroy more than half of this Country and the people are not going to stand for it!”
In the Wednesday letter to Thompson, Bannon’s lawyer said he’d been told that Trump “is exercising his executive privilege” and that Bannon was instructed by the ex-president’s lawyer “not to produce documents or testify until the issue of executive privilege is resolved.”
“That is is an issue between the Committee and President Trump’s counsel and Mr. Bannon is not required to respond at this time,” lawyer Robert Costello wrote in the letter, posted on Twitter by an ABC News producer.
Costello also told Thompson that “your use of the word ‘defiance’” in regard to Bannon’s stance “inappropriate,” and added that Trump’s former campaign CEO and White House strategist “will revisit his position if President Trump’s position changes or if a court rules on this matter.”
In response, Thompson issued a statement that repeated his characterization and accused Bannon of “hiding behind the former President’s insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke.”
“We reject his position entirely,” Thompson said of Bannon.
“The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.”
The committee will meet Tuesday evening to “vote on adopting a contempt report,” Thompson said, adding that it “will use every tool at its disposal to get the information it seeks, and witnesses who try to stonewall the Select Committee will not succeed.”
In an angry statement posted on his website, Trump said, “The January 6th Unselect Committee composed of Radical Left Democrats and a few horrible RINO Republicans is looking to hold people in criminal contempt for things relative to the Protest, when in fact they should hold themselves in criminal contempt for cheating in the Election, making up the Fake Russia, Russia, Russia, and Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine Scams, the Afghanistan debacle, the Southern Border Crisis, the crashing economy, and record-setting inflation.”
“They are using prosecutors and prosecutions to destroy more than half of this Country and the people are not going to stand for it!” he added.
Last week, Trump hinted at a legal battle after the White House said his claim of executive privilege over records maintained by the National Archives was “not warranted,” and that any other issues would be dealt with “on a case-by-case basis.”
Bannon is one of four former Trump aides who were slapped with subpoenas last month.
The others are former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino and former Pentagon official Kash Patel.
Meadows and Patel have been “engaging” with the committee, officials have said, and Scavino — Trump’s former golf caddie-turned-social media director — was only recently served with his subpoena, which likely pushed back his deadline to respond, according to CNN.
On Thursday, the committee issued a subpoena against former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, with Thompson writing there was “credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.”
That subpoena set an Oct. 29 deadline for Clark to submit documents and appear for a deposition.
A total of 19 subpoenas have been issued, including 11 against organizers of the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol by hundreds of Trump supporters attempting to prevent congressional certification of President Biden’s electoral victory.