By MARY CLARE JALONICK, JILL COLVIN and COLLEEN LONG
WASHINGTON (AP) – A House committee tasked with investigating the January 6 uprising in the Capitol is moving quickly Tuesday to hold at least one of Donald Trump’s allies despised as the former president pushes the probe back into a new trial .
Trump is aggressively trying to block the committee’s work by directing former White House assistant Steve Bannon not to answer questions in the probe, while also suing the panel to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents. But lawmakers in the House committee say they will not back down as they gather facts and testimony about the attack that involved Trump supporters who left dozens of police officers injured, sent lawmakers to run for their lives and cut off President Joe’s certification Biden’s victory.
“The former president’s clear goal is to stop the select committee from getting to the facts on January 6, and his trial is nothing more than an attempt to delay and hinder our probe,” said President Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. And the Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, vice president of the panel, in a joint statement late Monday.
They added: “It is difficult to imagine a more convincing public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overthrow the results of an election.”
Trump’s lawsuit filed after Biden decided to waive his right to block document release due to concerns about executive privileges claims the panel’s request in August was too broad and an “annoying, illegal fishing expedition,” according to papers filed. to the Federal Court of District of Columbia.
The trial was expected as Trump has repeatedly made it clear he will challenge the investigation into the violent attack from a crowd of his supporters. But Trump’s challenge went beyond the first 125 pages of records that Biden recently cleared for release to the committee. The complaint, which names the committee as well as the National Archives, seeks to invalidate the entire congressional request, calling it too broad, unreasonably burdensome and a challenge to separation of powers. It requests a restraining order to prevent the archivist from submitting the documents.
The Biden administration said by clearing the documents for release that the violent siege of the Capitol more than nine months ago was such an extraordinary circumstance that it deserved to relinquish the privilege that normally protects the White House’s communications.
The legal challenge came a day before the panel is scheduled to vote to recommend that Bannon be held in criminal contempt for Congress for his defiance of the committee’s demands for documents and testimony. In a resolution released Monday and scheduled to be voted out of the panel on Tuesday, the committee claims that the former Trump aide and podcast host has no legal status to reject the committee – although Trump’s lawyer has argued that Bannon should not pass on information because it is protected by the privilege of the former president.
Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump prior to the attack, the committee said, and Trump has not made such claims of executive privileges to the panel itself.
“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony of his actions,” the committee wrote in the resolution.
The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the run-up to the uprising, including reports that he called on Trump to focus on January 6, the day Congress confirmed the presidential vote, and his comments on January 5 that “all hell is coming to break loose ”the next day.
Once the committee has voted on the Bannon contempt measure, it will go to the whole Chamber for a vote and then to the Ministry of Justice, which will decide whether to prosecute.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, the White House also worked to substantiate Bannon’s argument. Attorney Jonathan Su wrote that the president’s decision on the documents also applied to Bannon, and “at this time we are not aware of any basis for your client’s refusal to stand for deposit.”
“President Biden’s determination that a claim for privileges is unjustified in respect of these matters applies to your client’s depositary testimony and to any documents your client may have on any of the subjects,” Su wrote to Bannon’s attorney.
Bannon’s lawyer said he had not yet seen the letter and could not comment on it. While Bannon has said he needs a ruling before he can comply with his subpoena, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former White House and Pentagon Assistant Kashyap Patel have negotiated with the committee. It is unclear whether a fourth former White House aide, Dan Scavino, will comply.
The committee has also convened more than a dozen people who helped plan Trump rallies ahead of the siege, and some of them have already said they would turn over documents and testify.
The committee has demanded a wide range of executive branches of intelligence gathered before the attack, security preparations during and before the siege, pro-Trump rallies held that day, and Trump’s false claims that he won the election, among others.
Associated Press Writers Zeke Miller, Nomaan Merchant and Eric Tucker contributed to this report.
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