The American people “will be shocked to know how close we came to losing our democracy” once the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol reveals its finding, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, says.
The Mississippi Democrat made those comments on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow last night, soon after the committee he leads voted to hold one witness, Steve Bannon, in criminal contempt for defying a subpoena. Bannon, who served as former President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist during the first seven months of that administration, has claimed executive privilege while refusing to turn evidence over to investigators.
“Mr. Bannon stands alone in his complete defiance of our subpoena. That’s not acceptable,” Thompson said during the committee meeting last night. “No one in this country, no matter how wealthy or how powerful, is above the law. Left unaddressed, this defiance may encourage others to follow Mr. Bannon down the same path. For folks watching at home this evening, I want you to think about something: What would happen to you if you did what Mr. Bannon was doing?”
“If you were a material witness in a criminal prosecution or some other lawsuit, what would happen if you refused to show up? Do you think you would be able to just go about your business? We all know the answer to that. There isn’t a different set of rules for Mr. Bannon. He knows this. He knows there are consequences for outright defiance and he’s chosen the path toward criminal contempt by taking this position.”
Thompson: Bannon Was ‘Encouraging the Insurrection’
Though Bannon had not been part of the Trump administration since 2017 at the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Thompson told Maddow last night that he believes the former Trump-aide-turned-podcast-host played a role in the assault.
“There’s no question in the minds of the committee. We believe that Mr. Bannon clearly was one of the persons encouraging the insurrection to happen,” Thompson said last night.
Bannon, who repeated unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was rigged in the weeks before Jan. 6, has denied accusations that he had anything to do with the attack. He also has ties to some Mississippi politicians, including former Gov. Phil Bryant; both men helped promote a pro-Brexit organization in the United States supporting the United Kingdom’s decision to separate from the European Union.
Though he is no longer president, Trump filed a lawsuit yesterday claiming executive privilege in an attempt to block congressional investigators from obtaining documents related to the Capitol assault.
The select committee’s vice chairwoman, Wyoming Republican U.S. House Rep. Liz Cheney, rejected Trump and Bannon’s claims of executive privilege during last night’s meeting.
“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do, however, appear to reveal one thing: 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,” she said.
The committee voted unanimously to hold Bannon in criminal contempt last night, with the full U.S. House of Representatives set to vote on the issue Thursday. If approved there, the question of charging Bannon with criminal contempt would be referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for possible prosecution.
Several Mississippians were in Washington, D.C. to support Trump on January 6th, including Eddie Nabors, a former Batesville, Miss., alderman who ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor this year.
Mississippi Republicans Largely Opposed Investigations
Like Bannon, Trump has denied any blame for the insurrection. Shortly before the violent attack on Jan. 6, he whipped supporters up into a frenzy with baseless claims of election fraud and urged them to march to the Capitol as he insisted that Republican and Democratic election officials around the country had conspired to “steal” the election from him.
“Something is wrong here, something is really wrong, can’t have happened, and we fight, we fight like hell, and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore,” Trump told a crowd of supporters on Jan. 6.
— January 6th Committee (@January6thCmte) October 20, 2021
After the Capitol insurrection, Thompson was the only member of Mississippi’s congressional delegation to join a bipartisan majority in Congress that voted to impeach Trump for incitement of insurrection. In the House, Mississippi Republican Reps. Trent Kelly, Michael Guest and Steven Palazzo voted against impeachment. Later, both of Mississippi’s U.S. senators, Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker, voted to acquit Trump.
Later, when the U.S. House and Senate voted to approve an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attacks outside Congress, Thompson and Guest were the only members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation to vote for it. After Republicans blocked the independent commission in the Senate, Thompson was the lone Mississippian in the U.S. House to vote to establish the current select committee. It did not require Senate approval.
Rep. Thompson filed a civil suit against Trump in January, accusing him of conspiring with insurrectionists, but withdrew the claim as he became chairman of the select committee.