This report is the subject of a Tuesday business meeting held by the committee, which marks the first step in a series of moves that need to be taken in order to move forward with holding Bannon in criminal contempt for not complying with the subpoena.
If the report is adopted out of committee on Tuesday, it is then referred to the House. If the vote succeeds, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi certifies the report to the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. Under law, this certification then requires the United States attorney to “bring the matter before the grand jury for its action,” but the Justice Department will also makes its own determinations for prosecuting.
Any individual who is found liable for contempt of Congress is then guilty of a crime that may result in a fine and between one and 12 months imprisonment. But this process is rarely invoked and rarely leads to jail time.
As severe as a criminal contempt referral sounds, the House’s choice to use the Justice Department may be more of a warning shot than a solution. Holding Bannon in criminal contempt through a prosecution could take years, and historic criminal contempt cases have been derailed by appeals and acquittals.
Democratic Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, who is one of the lawmakers serving on the committee, outlined that the ultimate goal of pursuing criminal contempt with Bannon is to get him to testify.
“Our goal is to have him testify. I think that this will send a strong message that there are consequences for not testifying,” Luria told CNN on Friday. “His testimony is very important for the committee.”
Last week, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who chairs the select committee, detailed the panel’s intent to pursue criminal contempt of Bannon.
“Mr. Bannon has declined to cooperate with the Select Committee and is instead hiding behind the former President’s insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke,” Thompson said in a statement on Thursday.
The day before Bannon was scheduled for a deposition in front of the committee, his lawyer wrote in a letter to the panel saying that his client will not provide testimony or documents until the committee reaches an agreement with Trump over executive privilege or a court weighs in on the matter.
“We reject his position entirely,” Thompson continued in his previous statement. “The Select Committee will not tolerate defiance of our subpoenas, so we must move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.”