The criminal contempt referral from the House of Representatives against right-wing agitator Steve Bannon landed at the DC US Attorney’s Office on Thursday with unusual fanfare, setting off potentially weeks of legal decision-making at the Justice Department.
The House’s vote 229-202 vote Thursday to hold Bannon in contempt for defying its January 6 committees’ subpoenas sets in motion a court process that begins with prosecutors considering legal questions and building a case.
The DC US Attorney’s office received the referral via a courier Thursday night. It could decline to charge Bannon, charge him quickly, or use a grand jury to investigate and indict the longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump.
There’s no strict timeline for how much time the Justice Department will take in deciding whether to move forward with the prosecution. And it’s not absolute that Bannon will be charged.
Still, in past cases, such decisions have been made fairly quickly.
It took only eight days for a grand jury to bring the last contempt of Congress charge following a House referral, against Reagan-era official Rita Lavelle, who was ultimately acquitted of the charge.
“If they do apply the facts and the law, I think it’s actually quite simple, because Steve Bannon has no absolute right to immunity, to somehow simply fail to show up,” Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House’s January 6 committee, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday.
The US Attorney’s Office in DC is currently being led by acting US Attorney Channing D. Phillips, a three-decade veteran of the department. By and large, the House Committee is taking a hands-off approach as Phillips decides how to proceed.