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    ‘Finally doing right’: Democrats’ big bill offers Sanders chance to deliver

    Bernie Sanders‘Finally doing right’: Democrats’ big bill offers Sanders chance to deliver The progressive senator is close to realizing many of his policy goals – but can he unite the party behind Biden’s plan?Lauren Gambino in Washington@laurenegambinoSun 24 Oct 2021 03.00 EDTLast modified on Sun 24 Oct 2021 03.01 EDTWhen making the case for progressive policy, the veteran leftwing senator Bernie Sanders often cites public opinion. “Poll after poll,” he’ll say, before running through a list of ambitious initiatives that the “vast majority of the American people want”, from lowering the cost of prescription drug prices to expanding Medicare, establishing paid family and medical leave and confronting the climate crisis.Versions of these programs – initiatives once considered nothing more than liberal pipe dreams – are at the heart of Joe Biden’s sprawling domestic policy bill pending before Congress. But despite the popularity of the specific proposals, the legislation has a polling problem. Poll after poll shows that most Americans have no idea what’s actually in the bill.Furious, Sanders livestreamed a panel discussion on Wednesday titled What’s in the Damn Bill?. To the thousands of viewers who joined the broadcast, Sanders said the Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar spending package was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild the American economy in fairer and more equitable way.“This is not radical stuff,” he said. “This is finally doing right by the American working class and having the courage to stand up to big-money interests.”After decades of furious speech-making from the political fringe, followed by two popular but ultimately unsuccessful bids for the presidency, the democratic socialist from Vermont is – against all the odds – the closest he’s ever been to delivering on the policy ideas that have defined his political career.Whether Sanders succeeds in his quest for a legislative legacy could determine the fate of Democrats in next year’s midterm elections – and of Biden’s presidency.“He has the most power and influence that he’s had at any point in his political career,” said Faiz Shakir, his chief political adviser. “He’s at the apex here. But as he’s acquired more power, so, too, has he acquired more responsibility.”Shakir said Sanders’ approach had changed because the environment had changed. Whereas before Sanders was pushing against the system, now he is at the center of the policy decisions, working within a Democratic party that has embraced much of his expansive platform.As chair of the powerful Senate budget committee and a member of the Democratic leadership, Sanders has been deeply involved in negotiations over the size and scope of the spending package. If and when an agreement is reached, he will play a lead role in drafting the legislation, which Democrats plan to steer through Congress over the unified opposition of Republicans.“In many ways he’s the author of this,” Shakir said. “And that’s one of the many reasons I think you see him rising to the occasion, rolling up his sleeves and making sure he is putting in all of his legislative efforts to get this across the finish line.”Initially Sanders proposed a $6tn budget blueprint, then settled for a framework that was nearly half that. Now he is working closely with Democrats in Congress and at the White House to reach a deal even smaller in scope that will satisfy the objections of the party’s centrists without sacrificing progressive priorities.Sanders knew his opening bid was unrealistic, given the dynamics of the Senate. But he hoped it would widen the parameters of the debate and ultimately what was possible. Progressives have repeatedly cited their willingness to accept a $3.5tn plan, and continue to negotiate downward, as proof of their commitment to dealing in good faith, compared with the centrists in their party, who they argue have not been forthcoming.As Democrats scramble to cobble together a deal, it’s the holdout senators Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, who hold effective veto power over which policies will survive and which must be dropped. Their objections have potentially imperiled plans for free community college, raising taxes on the wealthy and a climate program that would help the US meet its ambitious emissions goal.But every concession made to accommodate them moves the bill further and further from Sanders’ initial vision, leaving progressives deeply worried that Democrats will squander what they view as their best chance in decades to transform the American economy and confront the climate crisis.The California congressman Ro Khanna, who was among a group of progressives summoned to the White House for an Oval Office meeting this week, was optimistic that Democrats were close to a deal that progressives could accept, if not celebrate.“We’ve finally broken through,” he said. “And we will take the win because it establishes the principle that investments in people are needed in a democracy.”Republicans, however, view the imprimatur of a self-described socialist as a political gift.Progressives are now heavy-weights in the Democratic party | Gary GerstleRead moreUnified in their opposition to the spending bill, they have warned that the legislation is an attempt to fundamentally remake the American government in the image of a European-style social democracy while claiming the additional spending will stoke inflation and hurt economic dynamics.“This bill represents Bernie Sanders’ socialist dream,” the Republican senator John Barrasso said during a press conference, raising a 2,000-page draft of the Democrats’ spending package. “It is a nightmare for American taxpayers.”With no room for error, the stakes couldn’t be higher for Democrats. To pass, the bill will require the support of every Democrat in the Senate, a caucus that ranges the ideological spectrum from the democratic socialist Sanders to the conservative centrist Manchin.The senators have competing world views. Whereas Sanders believes the bill has the potential to be “one of the most important pieces of legislation since the New Deal”, Manchin has warned that the scale of it risks “changing our whole society to an entitlement mentality”.Sanders has publicly and privately sought to persuade Manchin and Sinema to support Biden’s agenda. It hasn’t always been diplomatic.Tensions escalated dramatically last week, when Sanders placed an op-ed in Manchin’s home state newspaper detailing how an expansion of the social safety net would help the people of West Virginia, which has one of the highest rates of poverty in the country. In a statement, Manchin fired back that “no op-ed from a self-declared independent socialist” would sway him.Behind closed doors, Manchin and Sanders continued to tangle, with the West Virginian reportedly making clear that he was comfortable passing nothing.Publicly, the senators have signaled that they are making progress. When they ran into each other outside the Capitol last week, Manchin threw his arm around Sanders and asked reporters to take a picture of them.As they returned to their cars to leave, Manchin shouted: “Never give up, Bernie.”Sanders hardly needed the encouragement.Sanders has become a ubiquitous presence on the Sunday political talkshows. He traveled to Indiana and Iowa in an effort to drum up support for the bill, intentionally visiting parts of the country that voted for Donald Trump. When he’s not selling the budget bill, he’s working to craft it, aides say.The planet is in peril. We’re building Congress’s strongest-ever climate bill | Bernie SandersRead moreSanders successfully lobbied the White House to back a plan to extend new dental, vision and hearing benefits to the tens of millions of American seniors on Medicare, a measure initially left out of the proposal. The senator’s healthcare push put him at odds with House leadership, who would prefer to permanently strengthen the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, or to expand Medicaid services to poor adults in mostly Republican-led states that refused to do so under the healthcare law.Biden said on Thursday that including all three benefits would be a “reach” but suggested a voucher program for dental coverage was possible. Though greatly pared back, it would nevertheless be a victory for Sanders, who has long sought to make Medicare the foundation for a national health insurance program, which he calls Medicare for all.As part of negotiations, Sanders has worked closely with the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, especially the chairwoman, Pramila Jayapal, the Washington congresswoman who has emerged as a leader in negotiations over the president’s agenda.In a showdown last month, House progressives threatened to derail a vote on a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill championed by centrists as a way to maintain leverage over the much larger spending bill.The Senate had already passed the public works bill, with the support of all 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans, so it fell to House progressives to, in their parlance, “hold the line”. Sanders offered his vocal support for the blockade, which Khanna, a deputy whip of the progressive caucus, said was “critical” to keeping progressives unified.On the day of the promised vote, Biden ventured to Capitol Hill to meet with the bitterly divided House Democrats. But instead of rallying support for an immediate vote, the president effectively agreed with progressives that the two pillars of his agenda were inextricably linked. The vote was delayed and the infrastructure bill remains stalled, bound up in the bigger battle over the spending package.The maneuver was hailed as a major tactical victory by progressive activists, who have long lamented the tendency of liberal lawmakers to cave to pressure from Democratic leaders during heated policy fights.But Biden’s position frustrated a number of centrist Democrats, particularly those from swing districts who had hoped the president would sign the infrastructure bill into law, allowing them to start campaigning on new funding for roads, bridges and expanded broadband.Progressives, meanwhile, argue that a failure to deliver on their campaign promises would also be politically perilous.Anna Bahr, who served as Sanders’ national deputy campaign secretary in 2020 and is the co-founder of the new consultancy firm Left Flank Strategies, said the debate over Biden’s agenda had helped elevate new progressive leaders. The effect has been a show of force by progressives that she believes will motivate voters and candidates next year.“There’s a family in Congress of like-minded people – there’s a voting bloc,” she said. “The possibility – the likelihood – of moving on some of the issues that Sanders had for so many years been the lonely voice on is absolutely inspiring for a lot of people, especially young people.”On Wednesday night, Sanders was joined by a panel of progressives to help lay out the proposals in the Democrats’ bill. It was a messaging mission, but the forum also provided an occasion to celebrate the ascendancy of the progressive movement in American politics.Introducing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders hailed the New York congresswoman as “one of the outstanding, in my view, political leaders in this country”.Beaming on screen, Ocasio-Cortez thanked him for the introduction. “That’s very kind coming from the OG leader.”TopicsBernie SandersUS politicsJoe BidenDemocratsUS CongressUS SenateUS domestic policyfeaturesReuse this content More

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    Facebook boss ‘not willing to protect public from harm’

    The ObserverFacebookFacebook boss ‘not willing to protect public from harm’ Frances Haugen says chief executive has not shown any desire to shield users from the consequences of harmful content Dan MilmoSat 23 Oct 2021 21.02 EDTLast modified on Sun 24 Oct 2021 04.23 EDTThe Facebook whistleblower whose revelations have tipped the social media giant into crisis has launched a stinging new criticism of Mark Zuckerberg, saying he has not shown any readiness to protect the public from the harm his company is causing.Frances Haugen told the Observer that Facebook’s founder and chief executive had not displayed a desire to run the company in a way that shields the public from the consequences of harmful content.Her intervention came as pressure mounted on the near-$1tn (£730bn) business following a fresh wave of revelations based on documents leaked by Haugen, a former Facebook employee. The New York Times reported that workers had repeatedly warned that Facebook was being flooded with false claims about the 2020 presidential election result being fraudulent and believed the company should have done more to tackle it.Frances Haugen: ‘I never wanted to be a whistleblower. But lives were in danger’Read moreHaugen, who appears before MPs and peers in Westminster on Monday, said Zuckerberg, who controls the business via a majority of its voting shares, has not shown any willingness to protect the public.“Right now, Mark is unaccountable. He has all the control. He has no oversight, and he has not demonstrated that he is willing to govern the company at the level that is necessary for public safety.”She added that giving all shareholders an equal say in the running of the company would result in changes at the top. “I believe in shareholder rights and the shareholders, or shareholders minus Mark, have been asking for years for one share one vote. And the reason for that is, I am pretty sure the shareholders would choose other leadership if they had an option.”Haugen, who quit as a Facebook product manager in May, said she had leaked tens of thousand of documents to the Wall Street Journal and to Congress because she had realised that the company would not change otherwise.She said: “There are great companies that have done major cultural changes. Apple did a major cultural change; Microsoft did a major cultural change. Facebook can change too. They just have to get the will.”This weekend, a consortium of US news organisations released a fresh wave of stories based on the Haugen documents. The New York Times reported that internal research showed how, at one point after the US presidential election last year, 10% of all US views of political material on Facebook – a very high proportion for Facebook – were of posts falsely alleging that Joe Biden’s victory was fraudulent. One internal review criticised attempts to tackle Stop the Steal groups spreading claims on the platform that the election was rigged. “Enforcement was piecemeal,” said the research.The revelations have reignited concerns about Facebook’s role in the 6 January riots, in which a mob seeking to overturn the election result stormed the Capitol in Washington. The New York Times added that some of the reporting for the story was based on documents not released by Haugen.A Facebook spokesperson said: “At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false. Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our commercial interests lie. The truth is we’ve invested $13bn and have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe on Facebook.”Facebook’s vice-president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said the company had put in place multiple measures to protect the public during and after the election and that “responsibility for the [6 January] insurrection lies with those who broke the law during the attack and those who incited them”.It was also reported on Friday that a new Facebook whistleblower had come forward and, like Haugen, had filed a complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the US financial regulator, alleging that the company declined to enforce safety rules for fear of angering Donald Trump or impacting Facebook’s growth.Haugen will testify in person on Monday to the joint committee scrutinising the draft online safety bill, which would impose a duty of care on social media companies to protect users from harmful content, and allow the communications regulator, Ofcom, to fine those who breach this. The maximum fine is 10% of global turnover, so in the case of Facebook, this could run into billions of pounds. Facebook, whose services also include Instagram and WhatsApp, has 2.8 billion daily users and generated an income last year of $86bn.As well as issuing detailed rebuttals of Haugen’s revelations, Facebook is reportedly planning a major change that would attempt to put some distance between the company and its main platform. Zuckerberg could announce a rebranding of Facebook’s corporate identity on Thursday, according to a report that said the company is keen to emphasise its future as a player in the “metaverse”, a digital world in which people interact and lead their social and professional lives virtually.Haugen said Facebook must be compelled by all regulators to be more transparent with the information at its disposal internally, as detailed in her document leaks. She said one key reform would be to set up a formal structure whereby regulators could demand reports from Facebook on any problem that they identify.“Let’s imagine there was a brand of car that was having five times as many car accidents as other cars. We wouldn’t accept that car company saying, ‘this is really hard, we are trying our best, we are sorry, we are trying to do better in the future’. We would never accept that as an answer and we are hearing that from Facebook all the time. There needs to be an avenue where we can escalate a concern and they actually have to give us a response.”TopicsFacebookThe ObserverSocial networkingMark ZuckerbergUS elections 2020US CongressUS politicsReuse this content More

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    Biden gives strongest signal he’s ready to move to end Senate filibuster

    Joe BidenBiden gives strongest signal he’s ready to move to end Senate filibusterAfter voting rights defeat, president expresses mounting frustration over rule that allows 41 senators to block legislation Ed Pilkington@edpilkingtonFri 22 Oct 2021 09.21 EDTLast modified on Fri 22 Oct 2021 14.08 EDTJoe Biden has given the strongest indication yet that he is willing to end or whittle down the Senate filibuster as a means of overcoming Republican intransigence and moving ahead with reforms to voting rights, the debt ceiling and possibly more.Speaking in Baltimore a day after Senate Republicans yet again blocked legislation designed to secure access to the ballot box for all Americans, Biden expressed mounting frustration at the filibuster, which effectively gives the conservative minority a stranglehold over large swaths of policy.Twitter admits bias in algorithm for rightwing politicians and news outletsRead more“We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” the president said.At a CNN town hall in Baltimore on Thursday night, Biden hedged on how far any reform would go. “That remains to be seen,” he said, “in terms of fundamentally altering it or whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.”Asked by the moderator Anderson Cooper whether he would consider ending the filibuster on the issue of voting rights alone, Biden replied: “And maybe more.”The filibuster has emerged as the rock upon which the ship of the Biden presidency could founder. The Senate mechanism locks in minority rule by allowing just 41 senators out of the 100 who sit in the chamber to block legislation.The present Senate has a 50:50 split between Democrats and Republicans, though the Democrats hold the majority by dint of Kamala Harris, the vice-president’s, tie-breaking vote. Yet the Democratic agenda is still stymied across important areas of public policy by the filibuster, which requires Democratic whips to find 60 votes to pass legislation.On Wednesday the Republican group led by Mitch McConnell applied the filibuster once more to hold back the Freedom to Vote Act. The bill would be the most significant overhaul in US election procedures in a generation, countering the wave of voter suppression measures that have been championed by Republicans across the states this year.Progressive Democrats have been increasingly pressuring Biden to be more aggressive on the filibuster in order to secure fundamental reforms. But the president is in a tight spot given the resistance to change from within his own ranks.Joe Manchin, the Democratic senator from West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, have both said they would oppose limiting the filibuster. Given universal Republican opposition to change, it would take a unanimous vote of all 50 Democrats to push this through.Biden told the CNN town hall that entering into the hornet’s nest of the filibuster at this moment could make it harder for him to pass other pieces of signature legislation. “I lose at least three votes right now to get what I have to get done on the economic side of the equation, the foreign policy side of the equation.”The president did not stipulate which three senators he had in mind.Earlier this month the Democrats began focusing on the idea of scrapping the filibuster in the critical area of the debt ceiling. Republican opposition pushed the nation to the brink of defaulting on its debt, though McConnell backed down at the last minute.Biden told the town hall that “the idea that, for example, my Republican friends say that we’re going to default on the national debt because they’re going to filibuster that and we need 10 Republicans to support us is the most bizarre thing I ever heard.”He said that if a similar clash reoccurred, “you’ll see an awful lot of Democrats being ready to say, ‘not me. I’m not doing that again. We’re going to end the filibuster.’ But it still is difficult to end the filibuster beyond that.”TopicsJoe BidenUS SenateUS politicsUS CongressnewsReuse this content More

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    Are lobbyists trying to gut Biden’s budget? No one knows – and that’s the problem | David Litt

    OpinionUS politicsAre lobbyists trying to gut Biden’s budget? No one knows – and that’s the problemDavid LittOur campaign finance system makes it nearly impossible to track money in politics or hold our representatives accountable Fri 22 Oct 2021 06.27 EDTLast modified on Fri 22 Oct 2021 06.32 EDTJoe Biden’s Build Back Better reconciliation bill has been stuck in limbo – and conservative Democrats are in fundraising heaven.West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who raised more than $400,000 from the oil and gas industry while the bill was being negotiated, is now poised to gut Biden’s clean-energy plan. Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema spent the summer and fall collecting checks from corporate groups and Trump donors who oppose the Biden agenda, then helped cut the size of the reconciliation package by approximately half.Biden’s budget could transform life for working women. Don’t let Manchin gut it | Moira DoneganRead morePolitical horse-trading is nothing new, and the version of Build Back Better that seems likely to pass would improve tens of millions of American lives. But there’s still something unseemly about the way this bill has been negotiated. Were the Senate’s holdouts demanding a principled compromise? Acting out of genuine concern for their constituents’ interests? Or were they trading favors for campaign cash?It’s impossible to know for certain which provisions, if any, were cut because of wealthy campaign donors. But that’s precisely the problem, and it goes far beyond one bill and two senators. Our campaign finance system – one that has existed for barely more than a decade – makes it nearly impossible to distinguish between politics-as-usual, influence peddling and outright bribery. That’s not just a threat to individual policies or pieces of legislation. It’s a threat to public trust in our system of government, and by extension, to democracy itself.For most of the last half-century, it was widely understood that democracy depends upon voters’ trust that their representatives will represent them. That’s why, in 1976, the supreme court ruled that the public interest was served not just by preventing corruption, but by preventing “the appearance of corruption”. The court’s decision made both legal and intuitive sense: if voters decide that the political process is corrupt, they’ll stop engaging with the political process, thus reducing public accountability and opening the door to more corruption.But in 2010, a new, far more conservative supreme court took a completely different view. “We now conclude,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in Citizens United, “that independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.” In a series of follow-on decisions, the court’s rightwing majority expanded on this idea: not that the appearance of corruption was good, but that no amount of money in politics could possibly appear corrupt.In the real world, the court’s assertion was almost immediately proven false. In a divided country, one thing Americans can agree on is that rich people and corporations have way too much political power. According to the Pew Research Center, for example, 90% of Americans think it’s important for society that wealthy donors have no more influence than other people – but just 26% of people think that is now the case. A handful of justices chose to ignore the “appearance of corruption”, but it hasn’t gone away just because a conservative supreme court closed its eyes.Fortunately, even in the Citizens United era, there are ways to reduce the political influence of corporate donors and wealthy individuals – and to restore Americans’ faith that government can work for the people.First, we can make it more difficult for lawmakers and wealthy interests to engage in outright, quid-pro-quo corruption. Just this week, a grand jury indicted Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, a Nebraska Republican, for allegedly lying to federal investigators about $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions. This development was remarkable precisely because it was so rare. It’s an open secret that even the campaign finance laws that remain post-Citizens United are broken with impunity. (Two years into his presidency, Donald Trump himself tweeted that campaign finance violations “are not a crime”.) If law enforcement investigated and prosecuted corruption more aggressively, lawmakers might become more careful about crossing, or merely approaching, legal lines.Second, we can do what election law expert Rick Hasen calls “leveling up”. Rather than limiting the amount of corporate money in politics – an impossibility so long as conservatives control the court – we can give ordinary Americans more influence. So-called “democracy vouchers” could give voters tax credits for small-dollar donations to causes they believe in. We could also increase the amount of public funds available for candidates who agree not to take private donations. (Lest anyone try to paint this as some kind of socialist plot, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush and George W Bush all accepted taxpayer dollars to fund their campaigns.)Finally, we can limit the influence of the other side of the influence-peddling equation: lobbying. In the Citizens United era, corporations and wealthy individuals can spend unlimited sums of money on politicians’ campaigns, then spend unlimited sums of money on lobbyists who ask those same politicians for highly specific favors. It’s hard to imagine a system better suited to erode Americans’ trust in their elected officials. But imagine a sliding-scale tax on registered lobbying, far stricter disclosure requirements on corporate political spending, or perhaps even an Office of Public Lobbying to advocate for groups well-represented in America but poorly funded on Capitol Hill.These changes won’t undo all the damage caused by conservative justices’ Citizen United ruling. But they will help stem the tide. They would give candidates without access to deep-pocketed donors a more level playing field. They would give lawmakers like Manchin and Sinema an alternative to funding their campaigns via wealthy interests – and no excuse not to take it. Most of all, they would give Americans more confidence that the legislative process, while never straightforward or without compromise, is designed to benefit all the people, and not just a privileged few.Democracy is not just under attack from insurrectionists who would commit political violence or would-be autocrats who would overturn an election. It’s under attack from those who seek to undermine its central promise – that representative government can make a positive difference in people’s lives.Ultimately, reducing the influence of corporate and megadonor money isn’t about smoothing the next reconciliation bill’s passage, or even fixing a broken campaign-finance system. It’s about bolstering the American republic as it faces its toughest test in decades.
    David Litt is an American political speechwriter and New York Times bestselling author of Thanks Obama, and Democracy in One Book or Less. He edits How Democracy Lives, a newsletter on democracy reform
    TopicsUS politicsOpinionDemocratsJoe BidenUS SenateUS CongressBiden administrationcommentReuse this content More

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    Manchin thwarts Biden’s climate plan: Politics Weekly Extra

    As Joe Biden gears up for his trip to Glasgow for the Cop26 summit, Senator Joe Manchin continues to try to water down the reconciliation bill, which as it stands includes transformational provisions to stem the adverse affects of the climate crisis. Joan Greve and Oliver Milman look at the potential fallout for the world if Manchin gets his way

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    House holds Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress

    House of RepresentativesHouse holds Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of CongressContempt citation for Bannon approved by 229 votes to 202Strategist refused to comply with Capitol attack subpoena Hugo Lowell in WashingtonThu 21 Oct 2021 16.32 EDTLast modified on Thu 21 Oct 2021 17.05 EDTThe House voted on Thursday to hold Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress, over his refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the House select committee investigating the 6 January Capitol attack.House votes to hold Bannon in contempt for defying Capitol attack subpoena – liveRead moreThe approval of the contempt citation, by 229 votes to 202 against, escalates the select committee’s efforts to punish Bannon for his non-compliance as they intensify their inquiry into whether then-president Trump helped plan or had advance knowledge of the insurrection.The House select committee chair, Bennie Thompson, the Democratic congressman from Mississippi, said the authorization of the criminal referral against Bannon signalled their determination to deploy their most aggressive measures to take action both against Bannon and any other Trump aides who might ultimately defy subpoenas.“We need to make it clear that no person is above the law, we need to take a stand for the committee’s investigation, and for the integrity of this body,” Thompson said on the House floor.“What sort of precedent would 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 other witnesses in our investigation? I’m not willing to find out,” he added.The move to request the justice department to prosecute Trump’s former chief strategist also marks a stinging personal rebuke to Bannon, and opens a new legal front in the select committee’s efforts to pursue information from inside the White House and Trump circles before 6 January.Members on the select committee recommended that the House hold Bannon in criminal contempt after they unanimously rejected the notion that Trump’s former chief strategist could claim absolute immunity from congressional oversight on grounds of executive privilege.The select committee had issued subpoenas last month to Bannon and top Trump administration officials – including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, his deputy Dan Scavino, and former defense department aide Kash Patel – under the threat of prosecution.But directed by Trump and his attorney to defy the orders, Bannon ignored his subpoena in its entirety, infuriating the select committee that then moved immediately to vote to recommend that the House find him in contempt of Congress.The referral now heads to the justice department, where the attorney general, Merrick Garland, the US attorney for the District of Columbia and the Office of Legal Counsel are required by law to weigh a prosecution and present the matter before a grand jury.Should the justice department secure a conviction against Bannon, the consequences could mean up to a year in federal prison, $100,000 in fines, or both – though it would still not force his compliance and pursuing the misdemeanor charge could take years.The select committee views Bannon’s testimony as crucial to their investigation, since he was in constant contact with Trump in the days and weeks leading up to the Capitol attack.Bannon was one of the key architects – alongside Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and lawyer John Eastman – of the plan to stop the certification of Joe Biden election’s win and attempt the extraordinary move of returning Trump to the Oval Office, according to a source familiar with the matter.That meant Bannon was involved in meetings with the Trump campaign – and potentially even Trump himself – at the Trump International hotel and the Willard hotel in Washington the night before the Capitol attack.Bannon also appeared to predict the Capitol attack itself, saying on his War Room podcast the day before the insurrection that left five dead and 140 injured, including dozens of police officers, and lawmakers and staff in fear for their lives: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”In opening remarks before the vote to recommend Bannon’s prosecution, the Republican vice-chair of the select committee, Liz Cheney, suggested the reason for his non-compliance might be because he was fearful of compromising Trump.“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 we will get to the bottom of that,” Cheney said.But despite the high stakes, Bannon informed the select committee he would not cooperate with his 23 September subpoena, and claimed the materials and testimony requested by the panel were protected by executive privilege and could not be turned over to Congress.The select committee rejected that argument on Tuesday.Bannon’s legal argument also faces a steep uphill struggle, with the Biden justice department appearing inclined to adopt a narrow interpretation on executive privilege, previously allowing top Trump justice department officials to testify to Congress about 6 January.In the contempt report for Bannon, the select committee noted that they had requested documents and testimony regarding his contacts with members of Congress and the Trump campaign, which could not conceivably be covered by a White House secrecy protection.The contempt report noted that even if the select committee accepted his executive privilege claim, it would still not have allowed him to ignore the subpoena since the protection exists for White House officials – and Bannon was fired by Trump in 2017.TopicsHouse of RepresentativesUS politicsSteve BannonDemocratsRepublicansDonald TrumpUS CongressnewsReuse this content More