Jan. 6 witnesses held in contempt: Who, why and what’s next
WASHINGTON (AP) — Several witnesses sought by the Jan. 6 committee investigating the insurrection at the Capitol are being held in contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate with the probe of the deadly 2021 attack, when Donald Trump supporters tried to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s election.
All of those facing contempt were in Trump’s inner circle and are defying subpoenas or refusing to cooperate, setting up a constitutional showdown on the ability of Congress to conduct oversight.
The House votes to hold the witnesses in contempt do not carry the force of prosecution, but they serve as referrals to the Department of Justice to consider charges. So far, the Justice Department has issued one indictment.
Most of the witnesses are claiming executive privilege from their White House work, though such claims have limits. The Supreme Court earlier this year rejected a bid by Trump to withhold documents from the committee.
Here is a look at which Trump figures have been held in contempt by the Jan. 6 panel, the reasons they are refusing to cooperate and what’s next.
The bombastic former White House adviser who promoted Jan. 6 on his podcast — and had predicted the day before the insurrection “all hell is going to break loose” — was the first to face contempt, and the only one so far to be indicted by the Justice Department.
Bannon defied a congressional subpoena and declined to appear before the committee for a deposition in October. His attorney said he had been directed by a lawyer for Trump not to answer questions, citing executive privilege. The House voted him in contempt in late October.
The Justice Department indicted Bannon in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress. The Department said Bannon was indicted on one count for refusing to appear for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the committee’s subpoena. He faces trial later this summer.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was held in contempt of Congress by a vote of the House in December after he stopped cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee.
While Bannon’s case was more clear-cut — he never engaged with the committee at all — Meadows had turned over thousands of text messages, emails and other documents about Jan. 6 and the panel wanted to hear from him further.
The panel is particularly interested in Trump’s role that day and the extent to which the president, who had just lost the November election, was involved with efforts by his supporters to stop the certification of Biden’s win.
An attorney for Meadows, George Terwilliger, had defended his client, noting that he had provided documents to the panel and should not be compelled to appear.
Meadows was the first former member of Congress to be held in contempt since the 1830s.
One of Trump’s close aides, former communications adviser Dan Scavino, was with the president the day of the attack on the Capitol and may have “materials relevant to his videotaping and tweeting” messages that day, the committee said.
The panel issued a subpoena seeking Scavino’s testimony in the fall but the former Trump adviser failed to comply, despite various extensions granted, the panel said. The House voted Wednesday to hold Scavino in contempt, sending the referral to the Justice Department.
A lawyer representing Scavino has not responded to AP requests for comment.
Scavino worked intimately with Trump before and during the presidency, often filming and tweeting behind-the-scenes video of Trump’s appearances.
The panel believes Scavino, in the course of his work and awareness of other social media sites, may have had advance warning about the potential for violence on Jan. 6.
Former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was subpoenaed in early February for an interview over his false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election that the committee believes contributed to the attack.
Trump had tweeted about Navarro’s false elections claims in the run-up to Jan. 6 calling on supporters to descend on Washington for a “wild” day. A rally was held outside the White House before Trump encouraged supporters to head to the Capitol where the election results were being certified.
Navarro has claimed executive privilege, and said the panel should take up the matter with Trump.
“If he waived the privilege, I will be happy to comply,” Navarro said in a statement ahead of the panel’s vote to hold him in contempt.
However, the Biden administration has denied privilege claims from Navarro and Scavino saying an assertion of executive privilege was not justified or in the national interest.
The House voted Wednesday to hold Navarro in contempt, sending the referral to the Justice Department.