Trump ally Bannon now willing to testify before Jan 6 riot panel

Bannon already faces criminal charges for defying a congressional subpoena related to the investigation.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon has said he is willing to testify before congressional committee probing January 6, 2021 riot [File: Alex Brandon/AP Photo]

Steve Bannon, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, has said he is willing to testify before a congressional panel investigating the January 6, 2021 siege at the Unites States Capitol.

The message, which was conveyed to legislators on the panel in a letter, represents a stark about-face for Bannon, who had long resisted requests to testify, choosing instead to face criminal charges of contempt of Congress instead of complying with the committee’s subpoena.

“I expect that we will be hearing from him and there are many questions that we have for him,” US Representative Zoe Lofgren said during a television interview on Sunday.

Other legislators on the panel said they planned to have Bannon sit for a private interview, which they typically conduct in a deposition with sworn testimony prior to a public hearing.

On Sunday, Bannon’s lawyer told The New York Times that the decision to testify came after Trump, who had previously warned his surrogates against complying, gave his blessing.

The former Republican president has reportedly become increasingly distraught over what he has decried as a one-sided presentation by the committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans, who began holding public hearings last month and were scheduled to hold the latest rounds later this week.

Trump has maintained he and his aides are protected from testifying under executive privilege, which allows the president to maintain certain confidential communications and be immune from some subpoenas.

A hearing on Tuesday is set to focus on the plotting and planning of the insurrection by white nationalist groups such as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, as well as excerpts from videotaped interviews with former Trump White House lawyer Pat Cipollone.

Another hearing on Thursday, which will take place during prime-time viewing hours, will examine the over three-hour stretch when Trump failed to act as a mob of supporters stormed the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.

The hearings have so far focused on Trump’s misinformation campaign before the riot, in which he repeatedly claimed without evidence the election has been “stolen”.

Prominent public hearings have so far detailed the pressure campaign by Trump and his allies on former Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the election victory of President Joe Biden, a Democrat. Investigators argued Trump showed flagrant disregard for Pence’s safety as he egged on crowds who chanted “hang Mike Pence”.

Last month, in surprise testimony, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson also said Trump had been warned his supporters were carrying weapons as they gathered at the Capitol, but refused to call them off.

She also gave a second-hand account that Trump had lunged at secret service agents who said it was unsafe for him to return to the Capitol to address supporters.

The congressional panel, which was formed in the wake of the riot, has said it specifically wants to hear from Bannon because he “had specific knowledge about the events planned for January 6 before they occurred”. It has cited as an example comments that he made on his podcast the day before the riot.

“It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen. OK, it’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is strap in,” Bannon said in that podcast. “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow … So many people said, ‘Man, if I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.’ Well, this is your time in history.”

Bannon’s trial on the two counts of contempt of Congress is set to begin on July 18.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies