Steve Bannon’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation of the 6 January Capitol riots suggests that former president Donald Trump “was personally involved in the planning and execution” of the insurrection, Liz Cheney said on Tuesday.
The Republican representative’s statement came during a meeting of the House committee investigating the violent insurrection. The committee voted unanimously to hold the former White House advisor in contempt for refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents and testimony concerning the attacks.
Ms Cheney, who is the committee’s vice-chair and one of two Republicans serving on it, said their investigation has shown that Mr Bannon “appears” to have had “substantial advance knowledge of the plans for January 6th and likely had an important role in formulating those plans.”
“Mr Bannon was in the war room at the Willard on January 6th. He also appears to have detailed knowledge regarding the President’s efforts to sell millions of Americans the fraud that the election was stolen,” said the Republican representative from Wyoming.
In its report, the committee argued that Mr Bannon made statements suggesting he knew ahead of time about “extreme events” on 6 January, when Congress was scheduled to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
In his podcast on 5 January, Mr Bannon said: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The next day, thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol and clashed with the police. It left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer, while hundreds were injured.
“In the words of many who participated in the January 6th attack, the violence that day was in direct response to President Trump’s repeated claims — from election night through January 6th —that he had won the election,” Ms Cheney added.
American people are entitled to Mr Bannon’s first-hand testimony about all these relevant facts, but Mr Bannon is refusing to provide it, said Ms Cheney. She then added that Mr Bannon’s refusal to comply with the subpoena left the committee “no choice but to seek consequences”.
The conservative podcast host, who served as White House Chief Strategist for seven months in 2017, was served with the subpoena last month, and had been ordered to produce documents and appear for a deposition before the committee on 8 October.
But in a 13 October letter to committee’s chairman, representative Bennie Thompson, Mr Bannon’s attorney, said his client, acting on orders from attorneys for Mr Trump, would “not be producing documents or testimony” until the former president’s executive privilege claim is resolved by a court or through a settlement agreement.
While the legal doctrine of executive privilege protects certain communications between a president and his advisers, the contempt resolution rebuff’s Mr Bannon’s assertion saying he was fired from his White House job in 2017 and was a private citizen when he spoke to Mr Trump ahead of the attack.
Mr Bannon and Mr Trump’s privilege arguments “appear to reveal one thing,” said Ms Cheney. “They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th. And this committee will get to the bottom of that.”