Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Now, Debate Before Vote On Bannon Criminal Contempt Charge; House To Vote On Bannon Criminal Contempt Referral. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 21, 2021 - 15:30   ET



REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Gentleman is recognized for three minutes.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Madam speaker, we are here this afternoon to test a proposition as old as the country's founding. Are we a nation of laws?

We are here because one man has decided that we are now only a nation of men, and that rich and powerful men need not follow the law. And the question we must confront is nothing less than this. Is he right? Are some people now truly above the law? Beholden to nothing and no one, free to ignore the law and without consequence?

Congress is investigating the worst attack on our Capitol in over a century, made worse still by the fact it was carried out by our own people, people who had been misled to believe that their election had been stolen and that violence was now justified. People who are still being misled by a dangerous lie that may lead to even more bloodshed.

This is not some theoretical matter. We were here. We heard the doors breaking, the glass shattering, the cries from outside the chamber, and we saw the bloody results, the officers injured and those who died. And in the wake of the horrors of that day, a days in which Capitol Police put their lives on the line to defend our democracy, it falls on us to defend that same democracy albeit at far less risk to ourselves.

The founders intended that ambition should be made to check ambition. If we fail to uphold Congress' power to compel information, then we cease to be a co-equal branch of government, unable to perform oversight or check any abuses of executive power.

Take away a court's power to subpoena witnesses and it fails to be a court. Take away the Congress' ability to do the same and it fails to be a Congress, becoming instead a mere plaything for a corrupt executive.

Do not believe for one moment that if we fail to hold Steve Bannon accountable that he will be the exception. He will become the rule. Not a rule of law, but the misrule of men.

Either we are all equal before the law or none of us is. This is the essence of our democracy. And as Lincoln said, whatever differs from this to the extent of the difference is no democracy. I yield back. PELOSI: The gentlelady from Wyoming.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Could I inquire as to how much time is remaining, Madam Speaker?

MADAME SPEAKER: The gentlelady from Wyoming has five and a half minutes. The gentleman from Mississippi has two minutes, and the gentleman from Indiana has no time remaining.

CHENEY: All right. I'm prepared to close, then, Madam Speaker.

PELOSI: Gentlelady is recognized to close.

CHENEY: Thank you very much. Madam Speaker, just outside this chamber, over the north door in Statuary Hall, which was the old House chamber, stands the statue of Cleo, 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 6 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 6, he himself said, quote, 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 is 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, quote, 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. And with that I yield back.

PELOSI: The gentlelady yields back. The gentleman from Mississippi.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS) CHAIRMAN, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Thank you very much. Madam Speaker I yield myself the balance of my time.

PELOSI: The gentleman is recognized.

THOMPSON: Over the last hour we 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 are 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 this man cannot let this man flout the laws 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 thank and acknowledge our Vice Chair, Ms. Cheney, for her leadership and partnership. There is no doubt in my mind that history will record her courage in stark relief.

History will record what we all do 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.

PELOSI: The gentleman yields back.

Our time for debate has expired pursuant to the rule, the previous question is ordered on the resolution. The question is on adoption of the resolution. All in favor say, aye.


PELOSI: Opposed, no.


PELOSI: The ayes have it. The resolution is agreed to for what purposes, the gentleman from Indiana, rise.

REP. JAMES BANKS (R-IN): Request a recorded vote.

PELOSI: Pursuant to Section 3-S of House Resolution 8, the yeas and nays are ordered. Members will record their votes by electronic device.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, you've been listening there to the debate among House members of whether or not to basically hold Steve Bannon responsible for defying a subpoena. And you heard interesting arguments, I would say, from both sides. They are now going to vote on this. And I just thought it was really interesting to hear the Republicans who seem to be kind of using the strategy of diversion to talk about anything but Steve Bannon.


CAMEROTA: And the things that they were upset about rather than kind of the, I guess, matter at hand of why they're all there today and what the vote is about.

BLACKWELL: Well, the list of red herrings and decoys was long. We heard everything from Christmas presents to gas prices to the embassy in Jerusalem, from Jim Jordan to talking about the security posture there at the Capitol, which is an important element. But we heard from Adam Kinzinger who is of the two Republicans on the committee is to not use that topic to distract from what the question is today. Can Steve Bannon defy a subpoena from Congress? So --

CAMEROTA: Joining us now, we have CNN's Ryan Nobles who is on Capitol Hill for us. We also have CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid, CNN's senior legal analyst Elie Honig, Harry Litman, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev.

Great to have all of you, I know you were all listening along. Elie, I want to start with you. What arguments do you think made the most and least legal sense?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Alisyn, I'm going to address the ones that made least legal sense. The arguments that we just heard from Representatives Banks and Gates and Jordan are just utter garbage. They are nonsensical, they were illogical, they were manipulative. Three big things jump out at me.

First, they argued that the reason Steve Bannon is subpoenaed is because people don't like his political beliefs. That's nonsense. There's plenty of people who have popular political beliefs. The reason Steve Bannon has been subpoenaed is because of his words and his actions because he predicted what was going to happen the day before, because he at the Willard Hotel.

Second of all, this idea that, well, we ought to be focusing on security. The committee is focusing on security. It's either/or.


And let's remember the words of one of those police officers who testified, Daniel Hodges, who looked at the committee and said, we need you guys, we need you guys to figure out if anyone above us, anyone more powerful was behind this. That's exactly what the committee is trying to do. And then finally, this is about more than Steve Bannon. This is about Congress' power and authority to commit meaningful oversight. If they don't act on Steve Bannon, mark my words, Meadows and Patel and Scavino and Jeffrey Clark, they're all watching. If Congress can't take action here in such a flagrant case as Steve Bannon, those guys are never going to be held to account. We're going to get to the full truth. That's what this really is about.

BLACKWELL: You know, Margaret, it's interesting that I believe it was Congressman Davis who condemned the work of the committee saying that what the nation needs is a committee that really gets to the bottom of what happened on 1/6. That was proposed, a 9/11 style commission. And Davis was part of the team to try to create that. Republicans voted that down.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Correct. The effort was to take this out of Congress altogether, create a 9/11 style committee. The Republicans thought that it would serve them better to do it this way, force Democrat's hands, and then say that the process was invalid. And you're hearing some of that from Kevin McCarthy now the Republican leader, the notion that the subpoena is somehow invalid.

I just think it's important to remember Steve Bannon is not facing this prospect of contempt for anything at this point that he did or said ahead of the January 6 attacks. It's for not responding to Congress' requests.

And this is a real moment for Congress. Congress' power has been eroding for years, anyway, vis-a-vis the president, the executive branch. This has been true since 9/11 through Republican and Democratic administrations.

But if Congress foregoes its own subpoena power effectively, if they say there is no such thing as subpoena power, it's just up to the Supreme Court to decide whether somebody has to testify, then they have really put themselves in a spectacularly weakened position.

And this is the moment we're in. Bennie Thompson said a lot of these Republicans are performing for a party of one, and I think the Republican Party understands that it is making a short-term play with long-term consequences here.

CAMEROTA: Olivia, I thought it was interesting that I think that Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Congressman Bennie Thompson took on the role of -- oh, sorry, we don't have Olivia at the moment, so let me pose this instead to Paula.

Paula, they were taking on the role of fact checkers in realtime. You know, having to get up and say, OK, what we just heard from the gentleman from Indiana or wherever is not true. But I also think that Liz Cheney kept bringing it back to what she feels really is the ultimate point here. And that is history is watching and there is revisionist history going on right now. So let me just play for everyone what sort of her mission statement I think was.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHENEY: 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.

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.


CAMEROTA: And so, Paula, as we watch the vote ticking on the right side of our screen there, I'm sure that you're also focused on will any Republicans side with Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, we only see two Republicans right now, I assume it's them, who are moving ahead with this resolution to try to hold Steve Bannon responsible for complying with this subpoena.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That is definitely something that we are looking at to see in anyone was swayed by Cheney's comments. She kept bringing it back to this idea of duty and how history will judge how people handle this moment.

Now as you also noted, there was a lot of fact checking going on but also a lot of accusations and claims about what the committee has not done yet. Those were some of the things that chairman was trying to fact check.

We have to remember, this first round of subpoenas, the four Trump associates, these individuals were specifically targeted because there was anticipation that they would resist, that there could be litigation and could be delays.

So, today's vote, it's a sign of just how aggressive the House Select Committee is willing to be to pursue anyone who does not cooperate. This is all meant to send a message to all the other witnesses that they will pursue about what happens if you do not cooperate.


Now, whether this will be successful in the long term when it goes to the Justice Department, if and when it's prosecuted, that is unclear. But at this point what they're trying to do is send a message to all the other witnesses who they are going to target in this investigation.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and I want to take this to you, Harry Litman, and what we heard from the Chair of the January 6 Select Committee there. Is that this -- he said it's not about Steve Bannon and we know from the top as we heard, it wasn't about Steve Bannon for many of the Republicans who responded, either. Here's what he said this is about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) THOMPSON: We need to take a stand for the integrity of the Select Committee's investigation and for the integrity of this body. 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.


BLACKWELL: And to that point, I know that so much of this is partisan, but an a-partisan point here is Republicans at some point will be back in the majority. If they issue a subpoena, and someone just completely flouts it, they would want some consequence as well. Speak to us of just the institutional element here of someone being able to just completely ignore Congressional subpoena without consequence.

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: For sure, and Schiff made this point very well, too. He said, look, if we can't do this, we are not a co-equal branch. That's all correct.

And Thompson, to the extent this wasn't all sort of dueling narratives and rhetorical positioning, there was one legal kernel he was trying to press on, Victor, and that is the notion that they have a legislative purpose.

That's also why Liz Cheney was saying here's the legislation we could pass. To the extent Trump has an argument to make and it's not very strong, it's going to be, this is just law enforcement, this has nothing to do with any legitimate legislative purpose.

And under the Constitution it's true that the House needs to be pursuing some legislation, some action they can take. So, there was a little bit of rhetorical positioning to say, hey, there's legislation down the line.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's listen in to Jamie Raskin there at the Capitol.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): This is a decision about going before the grand jury and we hope that Mr. Bannon will be held in contempt because he has held our process in contempt.

You know, you can be subpoenaed by the U.S. Congress or by a court and feel like you've got a privilege against self-incrimination. Then you go before the court, and you take the 5th. You plead the 5th, or if you think you're President of the United States, you plead executive privilege.

But he didn't even bother to come in and make any of his pleas, he just blew us off. And you can't blow off the United States Congress from your sofa and think you're going to get away from it.

So most everybody else has been directly participating or at least engaged in active good faith negotiations with our committee. Everybody owes the sovereign his or her best evidence about what took place on January 6. That's what we're asking about, and we have the complete power as established by the Supreme Court under Article 1 of the Constitution to get the evidence we're seeking.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Congressman Raskin, can you talk about the Republican response to what you guys outlined today? It seems like they want to talk about everything but Steve Bannon during the debate.

RASKIN: Well, I think that's right. Obviously, we were arguing with some members of Congress who have voted for contempt citations against officials in the past, like Eric Holder, like Lois Lerner. And so, they can't somehow pretend as if they don't believe in the principle that Congress has the authority and the right to get the evidence that it wants.

And all of us share that interest, you know, in the Article 1 branch. So that's why they decided to talk about marijuana and, you know, Afghanistan, Hillary Clinton's e-mails, whatever. But obviously. that was an irrelevant distraction from the matter at hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think this will get through the courts before the next Congress?

RASKIN: Oh, absolutely. Look, we're not fooling around, you know, what happened in the McGahn litigation was that President Trump was president and there was an Attorney General who was acting as a partisan guard or tackle blocking the investigation.

That's not going to happen now. We've got a real Attorney General. We're not trying to lobby or anything like that, but we just want the rule of law to be vindicated there. And we are absolutely convinced that we're going to win this case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, there is poll out this week that showed 56 percent of Americans feel like enough is known about the events leading up to January 6. Why is it so important to hear from Steve Bannon?


RASKIN: I don't know what you're referring to specifically.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quinnipiac poll.

RASKIN: Concurrent, robust, bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate have determined as a legislative fact that Donald Trump incited a violent insurrection against the union. But that's one guy, that's one crime.

What we need is a comprehensive inventory of everything that took place. What were the causes of the insurrection? What were the causes of the attempted political coup against Vice President Mike Pence orchestrated by Donald Trump?

And what do we need to do to protect ourselves against future political coups and future insurrections organized by disappointed political candidates. That's a very serious issue for a democracy. We've never faced this before in American history. We've never faced the interruption of the electoral college count before in American history, and we've not seen a violent sweeping attack on the U.S. Congress like this since the War of 1812.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, how do you respond to --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- from Representative Banks sending letters saying he wants the same information that your committee's requesting and he's --

CAMEROTA: We've been listening here to Congressman Jamie Raskin who made the case that you can't blow off the United States Congress from your sofa and get away with it. That's why they are continuing with this process.

You see the vote happening right now. Interestingly, we see five Republicans siding with the Democrats' argument that Steve Bannon should be held in contempt. We'll work to get those names for you.

But we want to bring back in our panel for a moment. Harry, I want to go to you legally because I thought there was an interesting argument that Republicans were making. They kept saying Steve Bannon is a private person. Why would you go after a private person? What would a private person know about this?

But the argument that Steve Bannon I think was making is that he is entitled to executive privilege because he was connected to President Trump. So, are those two arguments at odds?

LITMAN: They are. Yes, they're shooting themselves in the foot. And it is just as you say, of course, a private person could have relevant information and, of course, to have executive privilege you need to be in the executive branch which he wasn't at the time. So, it was self- defeating like much of what they had to say, I thought.

BLACKWELL: Elie, let me bring the same point to you, because Walter Shaub who was the ethics czar in the Obama administration pointed out a 2007 case. And I printed out a memo here from the DOJ in which they said in an investigation from Congress, Democrats were in control during then that period they were trying to figure out why George W. Bush had dismissed the U.S. attorneys.

And the opinion says that communications between White House officials and individuals outside the executive branch fall within the scope of executive privilege in that specific case. And Shaub suggested that maybe the DOJ would need a waiver from the President. You are familiar with this case. Is this applicable to what we're watching here?

HONIG: So, Victor, this is exactly what Steve Bannon and perhaps others are going to point to, this internal opinion memo from within the Justice Department in 2007. Essentially saying that people outside the executive branch can have some interest in executive privilege. The memo says basically sometimes the president needs to consult with people outside the executive branch.

However, that's an internal memo. No court has ever found that. It sort of goes against the nature of what a privilege is in the first place. A privilege means a closed loop of communication between spouses, between a doctor and a patient, between an attorney and client.

So, I don't know that it will ultimately hold up in court. I think it is really a stretch of executive privilege to bring it outside the scope of the executive privilege. But absolutely that's what Steve Bannon is going to be resting his argument on. I don't think it is a winning argument. But it gives him the thinnest branch to argue.

CAMEROTA: Margaret, I thought that it was interesting that we kept hearing from some of the Republicans who were speaking, Congressman Jim Banks, Congressman Rodney Davis, we need to find out what happened. We need to make sure this never happens again. That was what they kind of kept hammering but for some reason they don't think that Steve Bannon though he telegraphed that he did know something the day before January 6th should be called.

And you know, I think that it probably can't be easy to be Congressman Adam Kinzinger or Liz Cheney today but I just want to play what Adam Kinzinger said about his Republican colleagues.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): As a Republican, don't let my side use the security posture as the straw man argument in this. The reality is that is the equivalent of blaming the victim of a crime for the crime. And while it is important, that's not what we're here to talk about today.

Madam Speaker, voting on a criminal contempt resolution is not the position we hoped to be in but Steve Bannon went out of his way to earn this resolution before us and now we must approve it.


CAMEROTA: Your thoughts, Margaret?


TALEV: The sound bite sort of stood out to me also when he said it because it helped sort of explain the dynamic here. There has been a real willingness among many Republicans to condemn the violence that occurred or some of the individuals who stormed the Capitol that day and sort of perpetrated the violence.

But to try to separate it from the former President or his associates, to try to separate it from egging people on or giving them a predicate, you know, the suggestion, the incorrect suggestion that the election was inconclusive and that there was some sort of fraud or whatever. And so, I think what Kinzinger is doing is saying, look, yes, that the police and other law enforcement are supposed to protect the Capitol but it doesn't mean that it's their fault when people try to storm the Capitol and commit acts of violence.

It's sort of an attempt to unpack the logic here. And I think it is -- Republicans who have taken this position of kind of trying to make the case that violence is bad but that it is not Trump's fault. And if you need to blame someone you should blame the police that weren't out in enough force that day. And I think this is Kinzinger saying that doesn't actually make any sense.

Setting all of that aside none of this is actually about that. It is about whether someone who has been subpoenaed has to comply or be responsive to the subpoena.

BLACKWELL: All right. We are keeping an eye on the tally of those who are voting in favor of this resolution. All of the Democrats, 136 there, and 7 Republicans. We're working to get the list of those who have voted in favor of this. You'll remember that there were 10 Democrats who voted in favor to convict or I should say refer the Articles of Impeachment over to the Senate for the second impeachment of President Trump after the insurrection.

Harry, let me come back to you on a legal point.

And there are the ten faces there.

We heard from Matt Gaetz, well, we heard a lot from Matt Gaetz. But there was one point that he made that Democrats should take this to court. That this committee if they believe that they should get -- that there should be some consequence for Steve Bannon or they want to get these documents they should go to court. Your view on that point.

LITMAN: Yes, well talk about a Br'er Rabbit strategy. What he knows of course, it's very cynical, is that is what they tried to do with McGahn and others and they were foiled because it was just a strategy to run out the clock regardless of the merits or lack of the merits of the actual claim. So that is why he is saying it.

But in the meantime, of course they are hoping to take it to court. To criminal court. U.S. vs. McGahn and have a court and a jury judge him guilty.

And I just want to underscore that -- the solid point that this, a lot of this is about trying to change the incentives and sort of shake up the other witnesses. If McGahn goes to court it'll be a couple years but at the end of that he may be facing a jail sentence of up to 12 months. That is the point they want to sober up the other witnesses with starting now.

CAMEROTA: Paula, as we watch this vote count now, we think it is up to eight Republicans. Sometimes it's a little fluid there. But it looks like the majority is going to win in terms of getting this criminal contempt referral sent over to the DOJ. What happens next?

REID: That is the big question. Alisyn. Coincidentally, Attorney General Merrick Garland was on The Hill today for a routine oversight hearing and he was asked about how the Justice Department will handle this referral. And he just would not tip his hand. He said what the Justice Department has said overall which is that, look, we'll make a decision based on the facts and the law.

Now it is expected that this referral will go to the U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia. It is expected it would go before a grand jury.

But ultimately the decision on whether to prosecute in this manner and how to proceed, it does it lies with the boss, the Attorney General, and at this point it is not clear how he will proceed but we know he is under a lot of political pressure.

Almost every day we hear lawmakers saying that they really need him to prosecute this. Again, because they need the deterrent effect on other witnesses and even President Biden came out late last week and says he, too, believes Bannon should be prosecuted.

The Justice Department is pushing back on that and insists that it is independent and will make this decision independently.

CAMEROTA: We're getting the names now of some of the Republicans that have voted with the majority Democrats to send this referral over to the Department of Justice,

Because as you know Steve Bannon has defied this subpoena so we believe it is Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Congressman Meijer, Congressman Gonzalez, then there's Nancy Mace, John Katko, Congressman Upton, Brian Fitzpatrick. That is all we know so far.

I don't know if that adds up to nine.

BLACKWELL: And we should point out that Congressman Gonzalez, Anthony Gonzalez, announced that he is retiring from Congress after so much of the pressure and the impact on his family after his vote for the -- in support of the impeachment during the second impeachment of President Trump.