There’s a lot of activity from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, but continuing questions about how much it’s going to shake loose from key players in Team Trump. A new subpoena to former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark went out on Wednesday, but cooperation from the people who have already gotten subpoenas remains scant.
Former Trump administration official Kash Patel and former Trump campaign manager and adviser Steve Bannon are scheduled for depositions on Thursday … but neither is going to show up. Bannon is flatly refusing, citing executive privilege he has no claim to, while Patel continues to “engage” with the committee, the question being when the committee will conclude that “engage” is a synonym for “string along.” Members of the committee have threatened criminal referrals against anyone who defies its subpoenas, and will reportedly begin the process within hours of Bannon missing his Thursday deadline.
And a statement from Thompson, who says, “The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt. I’ve notified the Select Committee that we will convene for a business meeting Tuesday evening to vote on adopting a contempt report.”
One of the reasons Bannon’s claim to executive privilege is so thin is that Donald Trump’s claim to executive privilege is itself extremely thin. Executive privilege resides in the office of the executive, and Trump was booted out of there by the will of the people. The White House is moving forward on releasing a set of documents from the National Archives to the select committee. The other reason Bannon’s claim is so thin is that Bannon hadn’t even been a White House aide since 2017.
The new subpoena to Clark calls on him to produce documents and testify at a deposition on Oct. 29. Though not—so far as we know, yet—directly involved in the planning for the Jan. 6 rallies that turned into a violent insurrection, Clark was deeply involved in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, with his role climaxing in a Jan. 3 meeting at which Trump threatened to fire Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and replace him with Clark so that Clark could proceed with using the power of the Justice Department to get key states to choose new electors, reversing the results of their elections.
“The select committee needs to understand all the details about efforts inside the previous administration to delay the certification of the 2020 election and amplify misinformation about the election results,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, the committee chair, said in a statement. “We need to understand Mr. Clark’s role in these efforts at the Justice Department and learn who was involved across the administration.”
The committee is getting cooperation on some of its subpoenas already, though. The Associated Press reports that three of the 11 people involved in organizing the Jan. 6 rallies have turned over documents or plan to do so.
Lyndon Brentnall, whose firm provided security that day, told the AP, “All the documents and communications requested by the subpoena were handed in.” He has distanced himself from the subject matter of the rallies, saying: “As far as we’re concerned, we ran security at a legally permitted event run in conjunction with the U.S. Secret Service and the Park Police.”
Interestingly, the other people who have turned over documents or plan to do so are former Trump campaign and White House staffers. Megan Powers and Hannah Salem appear on the Jan. 6 rally permit as “operations manager for scheduling and guidance” and “operations manager for logistics and communications.” Later in January, Rolling Stone reported that Powers’ “LinkedIn lists her as working as director of operations for the Trump campaign into January of this year.” She had been with Trump since 2015. Salem was a special assistant to the president and director of press advance at the White House.
Hopefully the committee is getting useful information from them and others. But it must move quickly to hold Bannon to account—criminal account—and it cannot let Patel delay without showing serious intention of turning over documents or sitting for a deposition. If Trump loyalists believe they’ll get away with defying they committee, they will do it.