At a Tuesday hearing of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, committee member Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) pledged to investigate the role of former President Donald Trump himself in the “planning and execution” of the Capitol violence. Cheney made these remarks at a hearing where the committee formally approved a finding of contempt against prominent Trump ally Steve Bannon, who was subpoenaed by the panel but refused to comply. Now, that contempt finding moves on to a vote by the full House, after which point (assuming it’s approved) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will formally refer the matter to the Justice Department for Bannon’s hoped-for prosecution.
Cheney said that Bannon’s resistance to the committee’s subpoena, which he tied to Trump’s claims of executive privilege covering what the panel is after, points to personal involvement on Trump’s part in critical issues relevant to the riot investigation. What is Trump hiding? As Cheney pointedly put it:
‘Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however: they suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th. And [the committee] will get to the bottom of that.’
Urgent questions to answer include the matter of what Trump was doing at the White House as the violence unfolded at the Capitol, in addition to any advance knowledge that Trump or those close to him may have had of either planning for or possibilities of violence. Bannon was among those in direct contact with Trump before January 6, and he’s been reported to have urged Trump to focus on the day, which is when Congress was scheduled to formally certify the outcome of the presidential election. Bannon’s communications with Trump apparently include a conversation on January 5 after what CNN describes as a “contentious… meeting with then-Vice President Mike Pence, in which the vice president said he does not have the authority to block certification of Joe Biden’s win.”
The riot investigation committee has also issued other subpoenas, targeting individuals including former chief of staff in the Trump White House Mark Meadows and former Trump campaign official Katrina Pierson, the latter of whom has been reported to have been a sort of “liaison” between the Trump team and efforts to hold a rally in D.C. on the 6th.
Earlier this week, Trump filed a lawsuit seeking to block the release of broad swathes of records to the riot investigation committee, but the committee’s leaders — including Cheney, who serves as its vice chair, and chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) — remained determined. Cheney and Thompson said that there’s “a long history of the White House accommodating congressional investigative requests when the public interest outweighs other concerns,” observing that it’s “hard to imagine a more compelling public interest than trying to get answers about an attack on our democracy and an attempt to overturn the results of an election.” The records in question are technically under the current White House’s — meaning Biden administration’s — purview.