Steve Bannon Is Sabotaging the Jan. 6 Probe
(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- On Tuesday, a federal judge set Steve Bannon’s trial date for next July in his contempt of Congress case for refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 committee. That’s sooner than the October date his lawyers asked for, but it’s still a big blow to the government and the committee, which wanted to move quickly to make an example of Bannon and pressure other witnesses to testify.
Those pressure tactics are failing, at least with the marquee witnesses. Yesterday, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows broke off cooperation with the panel, even knowing he’s likely to get hit with a criminal contempt charge himself. Another witness, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, says he’ll invoke his Fifth Amendment rights.
Outwardly, Bannon’s team was granted a delayed trial date because of the legal issues they raised about whether he was justified in refusing to testify based on his claim—dubious, legal experts believe, but unsettled—that he’s subject to executive privilege as a former Trump White House staffer.
But Bannon’s true purpose all along has been sabotaging the Jan. 6 investigation—or, as he put it with typical hyperbole, turning his contempt charge into “ the misdemeanor from hell” for Attorney General Merrick Garland, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and President Joe Biden.
Yesterday’s developments show he’s plainly succeeding. As former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe put it, the effort to force Bannon to testify is probably a “lost cause for the committee.”
But the fallout is actually worse, as Meadows’s about-face makes clear. Bannon’s intransigence has had the effect of letting him set the bar on what constitutes loyalty to former President Donald Trump—a metric that a substantial portion of Republican lawmakers and officials are deeply anxious about. Meadows had tried to plant a foot in both camps, negotiating with the committee to avoid being charged, while also remaining a member in good standing of Trumpworld.
That tightrope walk is never easy. Meadows’s self-harming revelation in his new book about how sick Trump was with Covid-19 pushed him into the Trump “enemy” camp and sparked his panicked effort to make amends, including a remarkable act of abasement: calling his own book “fake news.”
It wasn’t enough. Instead, perhaps to redeem himself, Meadows is following Bannon’s lead. That will only strengthen the standard Bannon set by refusing to testify and send a clear message to anyone wishing to stay in Trump’s good graces: True loyalty entails refusal to cooperate with the Jan. 6 probe, an act of sabotage that makes the committee’s job even tougher.
Read next: Bannon’s Indictment Is the Fight Both Sides Want
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