As the American people weary of the endless partisan struggles bequeathed by Donald Trump’s presidency, they are caught in a pivotal moment that will decide how America will be governed today and for generations to come.
Bannon dubiously claimed that his conversations with Trump around Jan.6 were protected by law, even though he was not a sitting public servant at the time. He is openly acting on the instructions of the ex-president as Trump says all his contacts in office are covered by executive privilege. The select committee, however, wants to know what Bannon said to Trump before and during the Capitol uprising. He also suspects he is a key organizer of protests that have turned into a mob attack on Congress – after predicting on his podcast the day before that “hell is going to break loose”.
The former Wall Street investment banker was quick to see Trump as the epitome of his own populist and nationalist ideology and worked as a White House official in the early months of his administration. The ex-president’s inept governance only strengthened Bannon’s ambition for “deconstruction of the administrative state” as it crippled the regulatory regime he believes the liberals are using to wield power. . Most importantly, Bannon enjoys watching Washington’s elite system explode metaphorically. So, by declining a subpoena and defying the authority of Congress itself, he is being true to his long-term political goals, nine months after being pardoned by Trump in the dying hours of his presidency after accusations of fraud.
The House’s criminal referral of Bannon, if it goes as planned, represents one of the last chances for Congress to protect its constitutional oversight powers from Trump’s attempts to demolish the safeguards protecting American democracy. If the GOP wins the House in the midterm elections next year, it should close the investigation.
After the House votes, it will ultimately be up to Attorney General Merrick Garland to decide whether to open a criminal case against Bannon. The Justice Department chief will face tough questions from Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday. His position became more delicate last week after President Joe Biden said people like Bannon who defy subpoenas would face the consequences, although the ministry was quick to insist such decisions would be made. independently and not subject to politics.
“History will judge us”
The House vote on Bannon will come a day after Senate Republicans used filibuster, a device not mentioned in the Constitution, to prevent passage of a bill that makes it easier for all Americans to vote. and makes it more difficult to steal elections. The bill would have excluded many of the voting restrictions put in place by Republican-led states based on Trump’s election lies. It also expands postal voting and would make polling day a public holiday, so that as many people as possible can get to the polling stations.
Together, the two episodes on either side of Capitol Hill challenge two basic tenets of the American system – the ability of a separate and equal branch of government to restrict the presidency and the franchise.
And they show how the Republican Party has abdicated its duty to protect these two pillars of democracy to advance its political goals and the interests of an all-powerful individual who defends his own extremist ends.
Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, a rare Republican who has turned on her own party to account for Trump’s corrupt presidency, warned on Wednesday that history would misjudge Congress unless it calls for accounts at Bannon.
“In many countries democracy has failed because those in authority would not act to protect it because they sat in silence,” Cheney, vice chairman of the select committee, said at the meeting. a hearing on the contempt citation.
“History will judge those of us in positions of public trust. Remember this as you vote. As you think about how you will respond when history asks, ‘What did you do when the Has Congress been attacked? ‘”
That there is even a question of whether a political associate of a president who attempted to steal an election and whose supporters armed his lies to invade the U.S. Capitol to keep him in power should testify, shows just how the threat to American democracy has evolved and why it is doubtful he can survive.
Most House Republicans, who have been steadfast in their attempt to shield Trump from responsibility for his abuse of power because they need his support to gain power, should vote against Bannon’s quote.
As is often the case, supporters of the ex-president accuse his opponents – in this case the select committee – of the very transgressions they commit: politicization of justice and the duty of Congress to oversee the executive.
“This whole commission started out as a very partisan exercise.… You see most members getting tired of witch hunts and games,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana said Wednesday.
Democrats and Republicans, however, had agreed on an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the insurgency, until party leaders reacted to Trump’s furious rejection of the process and killed him.
GOP representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, who supported the independent commission, now says that the select committee meeting in its place “is a joke and has been from the start.” However, several Republicans, including some of the 10 who voted to impeach Trump over the Capitol uprising, say they are undecided on how to vote on Thursday. One, Washington State Representative Dan Newhouse, said he was considering his options even as party leaders like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy push for a “no” vote.
“I’m still trying to find out if it’s a good thing Congress is doing,” Newhouse said.
But Trump’s allies are doing their best to further discredit the House committee and give Americans the impression that his investigation is just the typical over-politicized shenanigans that plague Washington.
Two of them, Reps Jim Jordan of Ohio and Matt Gaetz of Florida, appeared at a House Rules Committee hearing and issued combative statements filled with hyper-partisan pro-Trump propaganda.
“It’s about putting up people like Steve Bannon and Kevin McCarthy for criminal proceedings,” Gaetz said. “This is another step on the road to criminalizing political activity.”
“The House cannot let this stand”
The chairman of the select committee, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, said Wednesday that if Bannon was successful, the fundamental role of Congress itself would be called into question.
“The House cannot leave this position,” said Thompson. “It would send a signal to Mr. Bannon that he can act like he’s above the law and get away with it.”
In its report, the committee rejected Bannon’s claims for executive privilege. The contempt resolution alleges that published reports and his own statements suggest that he had “specific knowledge of events scheduled for January 6 before they occurred.” He also claims he played several roles the investigation must know about, including “in building and participating in the ‘stop the theft’ public relations effort” that prompted the attack. “
According to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book “Peril,” Bannon was a key figure in a “war room” in Washington, DC, Willard Hotel, which also included Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, and who had multiple contacts with the then president and tried to pressure then vice president Mike Pence to refuse to certify Biden’s election to Congress.
Long-drawn efforts to enforce testimony – and attempts to lengthen time by witnesses like Bannon – mean it’s far from clear whether the panel will hold Trump to account in this potentially final effort.