Steve Bannon is trying to use the Department of Justice to undermine the House select committee.
The Justice Department has already used informal discussions with Bannon's lawyer to essentially turn him into a witness against the right-wing podcaster, and now Bannon's defense team is using comments made by Douglas Letter, a top attorney for the House of Representatives, to the FBI to argue that the Jan. 6 panel lacks the authority to issue subpoenas, reported The Daily Beast.
"Letter explained that the select committee was specifically appointed by the speaker of the House and there were no majority or ranking members," reads the FBI summary of that Nov. 2, 2021, discussion. "Representative Liz Cheney is acknowledged to be the vice chair of the select committee; since the select committee has a chair and a vice chair, there are no express rules for the vice chair as there would be for a ranking member."
Bannon has been indicted for contempt of Congress after ignoring the panel's subpoena, but his attorneys say Cheney should not be counted as a ranking member -- whose signature is required to authorize a subpoena -- because she was appointed by Democrats, and not Republicans, and they say Letter confirmed as much.
“His position is untenable on the rules,” said Bannon attorney David Schoen. “In that interview, he says unequivocally that there’s no ranking minority member in this committee. He was of course 100 percent right at that time. There is no ranking minority member. That’s a term of art. He knows what that means.”
The Republican Party made the same arguments in March, when the GOP sued House speaker Nancy Pelosi to block the committee's subpoenas, but U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly dismissed portions of that complaint by finding the court must defer to the select committee's designation of Cheney as ranking member.
But the lawsuit did not cite Letter's contradictory claims in the FBI interview, and another judge might rule differently in Bannon's case, which is expected to go to trial soon.