October 14, 2021

Today Stephen K. Bannon, a one-time adviser to former president Trump, was supposed to testify before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

Yesterday, Bannon’s lawyer sent a letter to committee chair Representative Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) saying that Bannon would neither produce documents nor testify because “President Trump”—not former president Trump—“is exercising his executive privilege; therefore, he has directed Mr. Bannon not to produce documents until the issue of executive privilege is resolved.” 

This is a weird argument. Bannon was not, in fact, employed by the White House at the time of the January 6 insurrection, there is no executive privilege for a former president, the events of January 6 were not part of the duties of the president, and the current president, Democrat Joe Biden, has waived executive privilege in this case. 

Furthermore, although Trump has suggested he “plans to” challenge the subpoenas on the grounds of executive privilege, he has apparently not actually done so, and he is having trouble finding lawyers willing to work for him. He has a bad reputation when it comes to paying his bills and is perceived as toxic after January 6. 

When Bannon didn’t show up, committee chair Thompson issued a statement saying that the committee would “move forward with proceedings to refer Mr. Bannon for criminal contempt.” House rules require a three-day notice for a meeting to refer Bannon, so the committee will vote next Tuesday on a contempt report. If approved, the report will go to the House, which can then vote to send it to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The former president promptly issued a statement complaining that the committee was considering criminal contempt, but the statement felt weak and repetitive—rather as if he was just going through the motions—and, ominously for Bannon, didn’t mention his former friend by name. 

Even aside from this interplay, the law loomed large today in national politics.

The January 6th committee is already hearing from some of the key players in the Trump administration around the time of the insurrection. Yesterday, former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, who stepped in to head the Department of Justice after William Barr resigned in December 2020, testified before the committee.  

On Tuesday, the committee issued a subpoena for Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department attorney who tried to find a way to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump talked of replacing Rosen with Clark, only to face an all-out rebellion from within the DOJ when officials threatened to resign as a group if he went forward with the plan. Within hours of the subpoena, Clark’s current employer had scrubbed him from their website.  

Today, a judge ruled that the former president has to appear for a videotaped deposition in a lawsuit in which Mexican protesters said they were attacked in 2015 outside Trump Tower in New York as they protested against his slurs against Mexican immigrants. “Donald J. Trump shall appear for a deposition October 18, 2021 at 10 a.m.... or, in the event of illness or emergency, on another mutually agreed to date on or before October 31, 2021,” Judge Doris Gonzalez’s order said.

Also today, Andrew McCabe, whom Trump fired from the FBI 26 hours before his retirement in 2018, settled a lawsuit with the Department of Justice. McCabe was the deputy director of the FBI when Trump fired FBI director James Comey, and McCabe continued to explore the ties between the Trump administration and Russian operatives after Comey’s firing. Trump continued to browbeat McCabe until he was fired, just before his pension went into effect. The settlement restored his pension, paid him back pay, and provided some of his attorney’s fees. McCabe called it a “complete vindication.” 

For all the other legal news in the media today, the former president seemed to focus his wrath on news from Arizona. His spokesperson hammered on the idea—now thoroughly debunked—that the vote in that county was suspicious. 

But on that front, too, judges had something to say. The Arizona Senate had argued that they had the right to withhold records with information about their “audit” of the votes in that county because those records involved deliberations about the process, but today the Superior Court of Maricopa County ruled that the public’s interest in transparency trumped any argument for secrecy and that they must produce the records.

Trump loyalists are suddenly focusing on the supply chain delays that they say will ruin Christmas. Ohio Representative Jim Jordan tweeted today that Christmas presents were never late when Trump was in charge, leading Princeton historian Kevin Kruse to accompany Jordan’s tweet with a post of a CBS headline from December 24 of last year, saying “More than one million packages will not reach their destinations this Christmas.” Journalist Aaron Rupar, who writes the newsletter Public Notice, pointed out today that Christmas has been mentioned at least 106 times on the Fox News Channel since yesterday morning, not including reruns.