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Jan. 6 committee votes on holding Steve Bannon in contempt for defying subpoena

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Find out what exactly happened on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol and why. That is the task of a bipartisan House committee, and their work has been intensifying. The panel's seven Democrats and two Republicans are charged with looking at the causes of the riot that left several dead and 140 law enforcement officers injured. The committee has issued dozens of subpoenas and demands for documents and has been met with some stonewalling and now a lawsuit from former President Trump. And today, the committee takes a major step by voting on a criminal contempt referral for a Trump ally who defied the committee's subpoena. Joining us now to walk us through all this is NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales. Welcome, Claudia.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hi, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Let's start with the biggest issue for the committee, a contempt resolution against former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. Why did the committee take that step? And what's at stake here?

GRISALES: There is a lot at stake here. And Steve Bannon for the committee presented the strongest case to pursue when it came to this criminal referral. He has claimed that executive privilege shields him from testifying or providing records, but he was a private citizen on January 6, not part of the administration. And this is the argument that members on the committee are making. They're also making other arguments in a contempt report they'll consider, which is that, all hell would break loose was one of the comments that Bannon made ahead of the January 6 attack. Also, he had been in talks with former President Trump, White House officials. And in the end, all of this sends a message for other witnesses who may be considering not complying.

MCCAMMON: So what should we expect when this contempt resolution comes to the House floor?

GRISALES: So one thing we can expect is contentious debate. This will relitigate January 6 all over again on the House floor because we'll see that deep division between Democrats and House Republicans who are trying to either diminish or deny what happened on January 6. That said, this is a Democratic-controlled chamber, so we expect passage. And once that happens, it gets sent to the Justice Department, who will take the case from there.

MCCAMMON: There have been requests for thousands of pages of documents, depositions from dozens of individuals. What are they trying to discover that other federal investigations, former President Trump's second impeachment have not?

GRISALES: So one area of focus is the misinformation campaign that certain right-wing groups were running in the days, weeks ahead of this, encouraging Trump supporters to come to the rally. And that, of course, was followed by the attack at the Capitol. Now, when we look at the probe by the Justice Department versus the impeachment this year and this panel, this committee's looking into the machine, if you will, that some members say was put up in the weeks ahead of January 6 to attempt a coup to overturn the election's result. Now, they're also looking into security failures that led up to delays of securing the Capitol that day. And ultimately, all of this could call members of Congress, Republicans in the House who may have been involved in some of these efforts in the days ahead of January 6.

MCCAMMON: Donald Trump has been fighting this investigation, of course, suing to stop the National Archives from handing over documents to the committee, urging allies not to talk to or cooperate with the committee, claiming he has executive privilege. He's no longer president. So what privilege is he claiming, Claudia?

GRISALES: Yes, he's trying to rely on this legal shield that committee members say belongs to the sitting president, to Joe Biden. And so this is part of the debate that we'll see play out in the courts through these legal challenges, how much of this legal shield may extend to the former president. But again, that remains to be seen.

MCCAMMON: Congressional reporter Claudia Grisales, thanks so much.

GRISALES: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.