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What charges has the 6 January panel accused Steve Bannon of and what could be the penalty?

The former Trump ally refused to appear before a House Select Committee investigating the Capitol Hill attack and could now face contempt of Congress charges.

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What charges has the 6 January panel accused Steve Bannon of and what could be the penalty?
Andrew Kelly REUTERS

The House Select Committee overseeing the investigation of the 6 January attack on Capitol Hill has confirmed that it will initiate legal proceedings against Steve Bannon, a key Trump ally and advisor to the former President.

On Thursday Bannon failed to appear before the committee despite being summoned by subpoena. Committee chair Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson accused Bannon of “hiding behind the former President's insufficient, blanket, and vague statements regarding privileges he has purported to invoke.”

The committee appears set to charge Bannon with Contempt of Congress, a rarely invoked crime which would require certification before a grand jury. If Bannon is found guilty, he could face up to 12 months in prison and a fine.

What has happened so far?

Both Bannon and Kashyap Patel, a Defense Department official during the Trump administration, were subpoenaed for attendance at a deposition on Thursday, but neither appeared. In a letter issued on 13 October, Bannon’s lawyer reiterated the claim that their client was covered by executive privilege, and therefore was not required to cooperate with an investigation into the deadly riots that resulted in five deaths.

At the time of the attack Bannon was not a part of the Trump administration, having left under a cloud in 2017, but is thought to have been in communication with the President thereafter. Bannon’s attorney has confirmed that that Trump has specifically directed Bannon not to produce any documents relating to conversations that the former President wants to remain private.

NPR report that Patel, along with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who is due to give testimony on Friday, has been in communication with the committee but the talks appear to have been fruitless.

What is next for Bannon and the 6 January committee?

Rep. Thompson confirmed on Thursday that the committee would hold a business meeting on Tuesday, 19 October to discuss the next step and members have stated publically that they will push for a criminal charge.

To initiate the process, during Tuesday meeting the committee will compile a contempt report outlining the witness’ failure to comply with the subpoena. The report will move to the Democrat-led House of Representatives, which will vote on the validity of the charge. If approved, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will certify the report to the District of Columbia US attorney.

This will require the attorney to "bring the matter before the grand jury for its action," but it is up to the Justice Department to make its own evaluation of the case and determine Bannon’s outcome.