Thompson & Cheney Remarks on Resolution Citing Steve Bannon for Contempt of Congress

Oct 21, 2021

- As Delivered -

Washington—Chairman Bennie G. Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney today delivered the following statements in the House of Representatives before the House adopted a resolution citing Stephen K. Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress:

Chairman Thompson: Madam Speaker, since Speaker Pelosi asked me to chair the January 6th Select Committee, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the importance of what we’re doing. The weight of it. The urgency. We need to give the American people answers about what happened. There needs to be swift accountability.

But there are longer-term considerations, too, Madam Speaker. I’m a grandfather. And when I’ve talked to my grandkids about that horrific attack on our democracy on January 6th, my mind jumps ahead to a future in store for them. Questions about whether American democracy, as we know it now, will remain strong. Whether it will withstand future tests.

That’s got to be the legacy of this committee’s work. To be sure, we’re going to answer questions about what happened on that day. But we also need to draw a roadmap for making sure our democracy remains strong tomorrow. We will work backward at what happened and try to explain how and why the insurrection came about.  But we will also look forward and generate recommendations for legislative policy and process changes that will help ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. 

And when we get to the end of this process and look back, we’re going to ask ourselves: did we do everything in our power to uncover every fact? Did we use the tools at our disposal to get a full accounting, or did we let someone stand in our way without facing consequences? Did we learn what we needed to know for Congress to forge legislation to help ensure we never experience another January 6th, again?

That’s why we’re taking up this resolution today, citing Steve Bannon with criminal contempt and referring him for prosecution by the Justice Department. We didn’t choose to be here. This isn’t about punishing Steve Bannon. The Select Committee would prefer and, frankly, expects all witnesses to fully cooperate. But Steve Bannon has led us down this path by refusing to cooperate in any way with our investigation.

We believe Mr. Bannon has information valuable to our probe. He was deeply involved in the so-called “stop the steal” campaign. He was reportedly in a war room meeting the day before the riot and had been pressing the former President to try to stop the counting of the electoral college ballots.

He himself warned that “all Hell” would break loose on January 6th. We believe he can help inform our inquiry as to how the riot came together and what it was intended to achieve.  He’s clearly an important witness.

So we subpoenaed him. And unlike other witnesses, who have engaged and worked with our team to find a way to cooperate, Mr. Bannon told us he wouldn’t comply because the former President told him not to. He hid behind vague and baseless claims of privilege. That’s just not acceptable.

The Select Committee told Mr. Bannon—several times—that he would face these consequences if he didn’t change course. Well, he didn’t change course, and his actions have brought us to this point.

Madam Speaker, we need to make it clear that no person is above the law. We need to take a stand for the integrity of the Select Committee’s investigation, and for the future integrity of this body. What sort of precedent will it set for the House of Representatives if we allow a witness to ignore us flat-out without facing any kind of consequences? What message would it send to the other witnesses in our investigation?

I’m not willing to find out. I’m not willing to get to the end of the Select Committee’s work and look back wishing we had done more to uncover all the facts. Not when we know what’s on the line. When we know that our democracy isn’t yet out of danger. When we know that the forces that tried to overturn the election persist in their assault the rule of law.

Our investigation is going forward. We’re hearing from witnesses, reviewing documents, analyzing data. Mr. Bannon stands alone in his defiance, and we will not stand for it. We will not allow anyone to derail our work, because our work is too important: helping ensure that the future of American democracy is strong and secure.

* * *

Over the last hour, we’ve heard a lot about what we’re not debating today. The Select Committee is charged with investigating a deadly attack on the seat of our democracy and making recommendations to ensure it never happens again. I can’t think of anything more serious. But many of our colleagues would rather talk about anything else. I think I know why. I think they’re performing for an audience of one.

I do, however, want to commend my colleagues on the Select Committee for laying out clearly why the House must cite Mr. Bannon for contempt. If our investigation is to succeed—if the House’s constitutional authority to investigate and legislate is to remain robust—then we cannot let this man flout the law with impunity.

The Select Committee is made up of people of character… of profound commitment to public service and our constitution. They all elevate the committee’s work. I especially want to acknowledge our Vice Chair, Ms. Cheney, for her leadership and partnership. There’s no doubt in my mind that history will record her courage in stark relief.

History will record all of what we do here today. We can be on the right side, or the wrong side. I urge all my colleagues to remember that as we cast this vote.

Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

* * *

Vice Chair Cheney: Madam Speaker, a year ago today, the election was still a couple of weeks off. We knew it would be a tight race, but most of us did not anticipate that President Trump, or any president, frankly, would ever simply reject the outcome of the vote. President Trump had the right to challenge the outcome in our state and federal courts, which have an appropriate and constitutional role in resolving election claims. But what he did thereafter has no precedent in our history. He rejected the court's rulings in dozens of cases, including the rulings of judges that President Trump himself appointed. He rejected what his own Department of Justice officials told him over and over again: that they found no evidence of widespread fraud sufficient to overcome the election. He rejected the conclusions of both the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community that the Dominion voting machines had not secretly changed the election outcome. President Trump had no factual or constitutional basis for his claims, and the lawyers he found who would carry his false claims forward have paid the consequences. Rudy Giuliani's license to practice law has been suspended, and Sidney Powell has been sanctioned by a federal judge. But Donald Trump persisted, attempting through every manner he could imagine to try to overturn the outcome of the election. And we all saw what happened. The people who attacked this building have told us on video, on social media, and now before the federal courts, exactly what motivated them. They believed what Donald Trump told them, that the election was stolen and that they needed to take action.

Today, Madam Speaker, we are here to address one witness, Mr. Steve Bannon. I urge all Americans to watch what Mr. Bannon said on his podcast on January 5th and 6th. It is shocking and indefensible. He said, “All hell is going to break loose.” He said, “We are coming in right over the target. This is the point of attack we have always wanted.” Madam Speaker, there are people in this chamber right now who were evacuated with me and with the rest of us on that day during that attack; people who now seem to have forgotten the danger of the moment, the assault on the Constitution, the assault on our Congress; people who you will hear argue that there is simply no legislative purpose for this committee, for this investigation or for this subpoena. In fact, there is no doubt that Mr. Bannon knows far more than what he said on the video. There is no doubt that ‘all hell did break loose’ -- just ask the scores of brave police officers who were injured that day protecting all of us. The American people deserve to hear his testimony. 

Let me give you just four examples of the legislative purpose of this investigation. First, the plot we are investigating, involving Mr. Eastman, Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Bannon, President Trump and many others -- their plot attempted to halt or delay our count of electoral votes and reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. The 1887 Electoral Count Act is directly at issue, and our investigation will lead to recommendations to amend or reform that Act. Second, while the attack was underway, President Trump knew it was happening. Indeed, he may have been watching it all unfold on television, and yet he took no immediate action to stop it. This appears to be a supreme dereliction of duty by President Trump, and we are evaluating whether our criminal laws should be enhanced to supply additional and more severe consequences for this type of behavior. Third, we know from our investigation to date that President Trump was pressuring the Department of Justice in late December 2020 to support his false claims that the election was stolen. Several brave and honorable Trump appointees at the Department flatly refused to go along with this fraud and threatened to resign. We are evaluating what, if any, additional laws may be required to prevent a future president from succeeding in any such effort. Fourth, we know that President Trump made efforts to persuade state election officials to, “find votes” to change the election outcome in his favor. We are evaluating whether the criminal laws of the United States should be enhanced to make the penalty for this type of behavior even more severe. And if so, in what manner? Mr. Bannon's own public statements make clear he knew what was going to happen before it did, and thus he must have been aware of and may well have been involved in the planning of everything that played out on that day. The American people deserve to know what he knew and what he did. I reserve the balance of my time.

* * *

Thank you very much. Madam Speaker, just outside this chamber over the north door in Statuary Hall, which was the old House chamber, stands a statue of Clio, the muse of history. She is one of the oldest works of art in our Capitol. She stands in a winged chariot, the Chariot of Time, and she takes notes in her book, reminding all of us that our words and our actions will be judged by history. History, particularly, will judge those of us in positions of public trust for what we are doing today. In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Madam Speaker, we all recognized how profoundly wrong January 6th was. My colleague from Ohio, Mr. Jordan, who just suggested that we were here because we opposed President Trump's policies, seems to have forgotten that actually on January 6th, he himself said, “What happened today is wrong and is not what America is about.” The next day, Mr. Jordan said, “What happened Wednesday is a tragedy. Everyone knows it's as wrong as wrong can be.” And today, Madam Speaker, the former president suggested that the violence was justified. My colleagues in the Republican Party, the Republican members of this body, have to understand, have to recognize that there's a moment when politics must stop if we want to defend and protect our institutions. A violent assault on the Capitol to stop a constitutional process of counting electoral votes is that moment. They all knew that on that day. In fact, the Minority Leader himself stood in this chamber and said, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Mr. McCarthy was right then: the president bears responsibility. We need to know what happened. This body must have the ability to understand what caused the attack, to understand who was responsible, and to take legislative action to ensure that it never happens again. Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this motion for contempt for Mr. Steve Bannon. I urge them to do so because it is right. It is morally right. It is constitutionally right. And it is all of our duty.

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