Capitol attack committee considers criminal contempt referral for Steve Bannon – as it happened

By Dani Anguiano (now) and Vivian Ho (earlier)
Steve Bannon and three other former Trump aides were subpoenaed by the committee investigating the 6 January attack.
Steve Bannon and three other former Trump aides were subpoenaed by the committee investigating the 6 January attack. Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/AP

Politics recap

  • Donald Trump directed four of his former aides – Steve Bannon, former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows – to ignore subpoenas from the House select committee tasked with investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol. He later sent a letter to the National Archives indicating that he wished to assert executive privilege over the documents in question, a power only the person in office can wield. That person, Joe Biden, has since said that he plans to waive that privilege for this set of documents.
  • Bannon, meanwhile, has informed the House committee that he will not be cooperating with their subpoena. Committee chair Bennie Thompson and vice chair Liz Cheney say they “will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral”.
  • In more Trump news, the House oversight committee revealed today that the Trump International Hotel Washington DC lost almost $74m during Trump’s presidency, even while he publicly claimed it was making tens of millions of dollars.
  • Joe Biden became the first president to issue a proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on 11 October, but he also issued a proclamation commemorating Columbus Day on that same day. Still, it’s a significant boost in a nationwide movement to replace a federal holiday that Indigenous rights groups believe overlooks the violent history that followed the Italian explorer’s 1492 arrival in the Americas with one celebrating the contributions of Indigenous people.
  • The justice department announced Friday that it would not file federal charges against the white police officer who shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year.
  • Texas has asked the fifth circuit court of appeals to restore the state’s restrictive abortion ban after a judge temporarily blocked the law on Wednesday. The new law banned most abortions in the state and until this week had managed to withstand a wave of early challenges.

-Vivian Ho and Dani Anguiano

Updated

A new Senate report released Thursday offers alarming details on Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, pressed Jeffrey Rosen, the acting attorney general, and top DoJ officials to pursue allegations of election fraud, according to the report.

My colleague Sam Levine on the key takeaways from the report:

Trump pressured the justice department to file a lawsuit in the supreme court seeking to invalidate the election results in six states

In late December, Trump asked the justice department to take the highly unusual step of filing an election lawsuit directly in the US Supreme Court. The suit would have asked the court to nullify Biden’s election victories in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nevada.

The solicitor general’s office (OSG) and the office of legal counsel (OLC) prepared memos explaining why the department could not file a lawsuit. “Among other hurdles, OSG explained that DOJ could not file an original supreme court action for the benefit of a political candidate,” the senate report says.

A plain-English memo from OLC was more blunt. “[T]here is no legal basis to bring this lawsuit.”

Texas asks court to reinstate abortion ban

Texas has asked the fifth circuit court of appeals to restore the state’s restrictive abortion ban after a judge temporarily blocked the law on Wednesday.

“There is no precedent for the district court’s injunction; it grossly and irreparably interferes with Texas state-court operations,” the state said in a filing.

The new law, signed by Republican governor Greg Abbott in May, banned most abortions in the state and until this week had managed to withstand a wave of early challenges. It bans the procedures once cardiac activity is detected, which can occur as early as six weeks, and makes no exceptions for rape or incest. The law also allows private citizens to sue anyone they suspect of “aiding or abetting” the procedure.

A supporter of reproductive rights holds a sign outside the Texas state capitol, 2 October.
A supporter of reproductive rights holds a sign outside the Texas state capitol, 2 October. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The judge who blocked the law earlier this week said it unlawfully prevented women “from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the constitution”. Local service providers have said that Texas clinics are in danger of closing while other states are struggling to keep up with a surge of new patients from Texas.

The Texas law, which has set up the biggest test of abortion rights in the US in decades, is part of a broader push by Republicans to restrict and ban abortion.

Senate Republicans sow disinformation after $480bn US debt ceiling deal

Top Republicans in the Senate are advancing a campaign of disinformation over the debt ceiling as they seek to distort the reasons for needing to raise the nation’s borrowing cap, after they dropped their blockade on averting a US debt default in a bipartisan manner.

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to allow the debt ceiling to be raised by $480bn through early December, which the treasury department estimates will be enough to allow the government to temporarily avert an unprecedented default on $28tn of debt obligations.

The Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, announced the morning before its passage that he had reached a deal with the Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, to clear the way for the vote on a short-term extension with GOP support.

The movement came after McConnell made a tactical retreat to back down from weeks of refusal to allow Democrats to raise the debt ceiling by any measure other than through a complicated procedure known as reconciliation that would have required a party-line vote.

Hi everyone. Dani Anguiano taking over our US politics live blog for the rest of the day.

The justice department announced Friday that it would not file federal charges against the white police officer who shot and paralyzed Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last year. That officer, Rusten Sheskey, was not charged by local prosecutors in the incident and returned to duty earlier this year.

“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the KPD officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes,” the justice department said in a press release.

Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times as officers tried to arrest him on an outstanding warrant. He has not been able to walk since, but said he expects to do so soon. The shooting, which occurred just months after George Floyd was killed by police in Minnesota, sparked several nights of chaotic protests. During one of those protests, Kyle Rittenhouse, an Illinois teen, shot three people, killing two.

Today so far

  • Donald Trump directed four of his former aides – Steve Bannon, former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows – to ignore subpoenas from the House select committee tasked with investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol. He later sent a letter to the National Archives indicating that he wished to assert executive privilege over the documents in question, a power only the person in office can wield. That person, Joe Biden, has since said that he plans to waive that privilege for this set of documents.
  • Bannon, meanwhile, has full-on informed the House committee that he will not be cooperating with their subpoena. Committee chair Bennie Thompson and vice chair Liz Cheney say they “will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral”.
  • In more Trump news, the House oversight committee revealed today that the Trump International Hotel Washington DC lost almost $74m during Trump’s presidency, even while he publicly claimed it was making tens of millions of dollars.
  • Joe Biden became the first president to issue a proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on 11 October, but he also issued a proclamation commemorating Columbus Day on that same day. Still, it’s a significant boost in a nationwide movement to replace a federal holiday that Indigenous rights groups believe overlooks the violent history that followed the Italian explorer’s 1492 arrival in the Americas with one celebrating the contributions of Native Americans.

Updated

Donald Trump has issued a lengthy statement regarding the records sought by the House select committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol and his failed efforts to withhold them by asserting executive privilege, a power only the person currently in office can wield and in this case has decided to waive.

He claims he sent a letter to the National Archives in defense of the office of the presidency and the constitution, among other things. He said the investigation into the attack of the US Capitol was about “using the power of the government to silence ‘Trump’ and our Make American Great Again movement” – no explanation why Trump is in quotations.

“My administration, and the great patriots who worked on behalf of the American people, will not be intimidated,” he wrote.

Updated

Biden issues proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples' Day

Joe Biden became the first president today to issue a proclamation commemorating Indigenous Peoples’ Day, boosting efforts to shift the focus of the federal holiday celebrating Christopher Columbus – whose arrival in the Americas led to the deaths of countless Indigenous people – to a celebration of Native Americans and their contributions.

“On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, our nation celebrates the invaluable contributions and resilience of Indigenous peoples, recognizes their inherent sovereignty, and commits to honoring the federal government’s trust and treaty obligations to tribal nations,” Biden said.

For decades, Indigenous rights groups have maintained that the federal holiday of Columbus Day overlooks the colonialism, enslavement, discrimination and land grabs that followed the Italian explorer’s 1492 arrival in the Americas.

More and more cities have begun recognizing Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Columbus Day in recent years.

“For generations, general policies systematically sought to assimilate and displace native people and eradicate native cultures,” the proclamation states. “Today, we recognize Indigenous peoples’ resilience and strength as well as the immeasurable positive impact that they have made on every aspect of American society.”

Biden also issued a separate proclamation commemorating Columbus Day – one that also declares 11 October Columbus Day as well as Indigenous Peoples’ Day – but that proclamation makes a point to acknowledge “the painful history of wrongs and atrocities that many European explorers inflicted on tribal nations and Indigenous communities”.

“It is a measure of our greatness as a nation that we do not seek to bury these shameful episodes of our past – that we face them honestly, we bring them to the light, and we do all we can to address them,” the proclamation reads.

Updated

“These are unique and extraordinary circumstances,” White House counsel Dana Remus wrote in a letter to David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, regarding the records sought by the House select committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.

Donald Trump, in a two-page letter to the National Archives, indicated on Friday that he wanted to assert executive privilege over 45 documents identified by the National Archives as responsive to the committee’s request.

“Should the committee persist in seeking other privileged information, I will take all necessary and appropriate steps to defend the Office of the Presidency,” Trump wrote.

However, only the person currently in office can declare executive privilege – and Trump is not currently in office. “After my consultations with the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, President Biden has determined that an assertion of executive privilege is not in the best interests of the United States, and therefore is not justified as to any of the documents,” Remus wrote in a letter obtained by the Guardian.

She noted – and White House press secretary Jen Psaki later confirmed at the press briefing – that privilege may be evaluated on a “case-by-case basis”, and some future material may still be protected.

Updated

White House press secretary Jen Psaki is at the podium for the press briefing, talking about Joe Biden and his decision to waive executive privilege for the first set of documents produced at the request of the House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.

Sixteen Democratic senators sent a letter to homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and secretary of state Antony Blinken denouncing the US treatment of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers at the border.

“Ensuring the integrity of US borders is of utmost importance, and is not incompatible with the fundamental duty to respect the dignity, humanity, and rights of all individuals seeking entry to the United States,” the letter states. “We reiterate our call for the Biden administration to act swiftly in appointing a new special envoy for Haiti, and to work with our international partners throughout the region to find immediate solutions that places the protection needs of Haitian migrants and the long-term stability of Haiti at the core of our approach.”

This comes after Daniel Foote, the former special envoy for Haiti, testified before the House foreign affairs committee about his abrupt resignation in September over what he called the Biden administration’s “inhumane” mass deportation of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers.

He resigned shortly after shocking photos were published showing US border patrol agents on horseback using their reins on desperate Haitian refugees by the banks of the Rio Grande.

Biden waives executive privilege on first set of 6 January documents

Joe Biden has waived executive privilege on the first set of documents produced at the request of the House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.

Let us recap: Donald Trump had directed Bannon and three other former aides - former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows - to ignore subpoenas from the House committee, claiming that the material that investigators were seeking is covered by executive privilege.

But only the person currently in office can declare executive privilege - and Trump is not currently in office.

Joe Biden is now speaking about restoring protections to three national monuments: Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument off the coast in New England.

Protections for all three of these monuments were stripped or scaled down under the Trump administration. “The protection of public lands must not become a pendulum that swings back and forth depending on who is in public office,” Biden said. “It’s not a partisan issue.”

Interior secretary Deb Haaland – the first Native American interior secretary in US history – teared up speaking about the importance of these protections.

“Thank you, Mr President, for the profound action you are taking today to permanently protect the homelands of our ancestors,” she said.

“Our songs, our languages and our cultures are strong, and many people from many Indian tribes have sung and spoken in unison to protect this sacred place.”

Updated

House committee investigating Capitol attack to consider criminal referral for Bannon

Earlier, Steve Bannon informed the House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol that he will not be cooperating with their subpoena to provide related documents.

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson and vice chair Liz Cheney just released a statement saying they now “will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral”.

Donald Trump had directed Bannon and three other former aides - former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows - to ignore the subpoena, claiming that the material that the committee is seeking from the four is covered by executive privilege.

Thompson and Cheney said Meadows and Patel are “engaging” with the committee.

Biden: 'We risk losing our edge as a nation'

Joe Biden balanced putting a brave face on the disappointing September jobs figures today with a warning that if Congress doesn’t pass his two flagship infrastructure bills “we risk losing our edge as a nation”.

Speaking in Washington moments ago, the US president said the addition of 194,000 jobs last month – far fewer than expected and the second month of disappointing growth as the coronavirus Delta variant and a tight labor market appeared to be holding back hiring – showed the trend of growth “is solid”.

“Jobs creation in the first eight months” of his presidency total “almost five million jobs”, he said, adding: “Jobs are up, wages are up, unemployment is down, that’s progress ... real progress.”

But then Biden said: “America is still the largest economy in the world, we still have the most productive workers and the most innovative minds in the world, but we risk losing our edge as a nation if we do not move.”

He pointed out that “our infrastructure used to be the best in the world - roads, bridges, ports, etc” but had fallen to 13th place in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.

And noted that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) now ranked the US 35th out of 37 leading countries in the percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on early child education.

“We have taken our foot off the gas,” he said.

The president pledged “we are going to lead the world like we used to” if Congress will pass the $1tr bipartisan infrastructure bill and a version of the $3.5tr “human infrastructure” bill now before it, which tackle physical structures but also climate change, high speed internet, benefits for families and new technology.

He also called for less division and “noise” over the legislation.

Updated

Steve Bannon has claimed executive privilege as a reason for not co-operating with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.

Steve Bannon.
Steve Bannon. Photograph: Michal Čížek/AFP/Getty Images

The letter from his lawyers to the committee (see block here) echoes a letter sent to Jerrold Nadler, the chair of the House judiciary committee, in September 2019, regarding a subpoena issued to Corey Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign chair and, until recently, a powerful figure in Trump’s orbit.

The attorney writing on Lewandowski’s behalf indicates that what eventually happened – a “testy” hearing in which Lewandowski was conclusively not made to reveal damaging information by Democrats considering whether Trump should be impeached – will happen, thanks to claims of executive privilege.

That doctrine, the attorney says, holds that “the president’s communications seeking advice or information in connection with the discharge of his duties are highly confidential and not ordinarily subject to disclosure”.

There are many potential differences between Lewandowski’s case and Bannon’s but one glaring one is that Lewandowski’s lawyer did not claim blanket executive privilege, as Bannon’s now does.

Another difference is that the lawyer who wrote on Lewandowski’s behalf was Pat Cipollone, then White House counsel to Trump.

The power of a sitting president is of course huge. But now Trump is not sitting, Bannon does not have such protection from inside the Oval Office.

In short, like a lot of constitutional law, arguments about executive privilege are in a way like arguments about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Doctrine, precedent and evidence matter less that whoever is in the most powerful position.

In Bannon’s case, in short, he and other targets of subpoenas from the 6 January committee do not have what Mitt Romney once called a “900lb gorilla” on their side. So if the committee decides to get cross about their refusal to co-operate, things could get interesting.

Lest we forget, as all the todo around the debt limit begins to wind down (for now), there’s still the very contentious $3.5tn reconciliation bill up ahead.

Senator Bernie Sanders took the time today to chat with reporters about his displeasure over the role that centrist Democrats senators Joe Manchin and Kysten Sinema in shrinking the bill.

He and other progressives in the party have been clear from the start that this “human infrastructure” bill focused on social services and environmental measures was fine as it was and should be voted on alongside the $1.2tn bipartisan infrastructure bill to give it a better chance of passing. Republicans - and Manchin and Sinema - have long balked at the size, as well as attempts to pass it alongside a bill they had negotiated.

Sanders has especially gone hard at Manchin, who has repeatedly spoken about how he feels that the bill would move the country toward “an entitlement society”.

Steve Bannon has informed the House committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol that he will not be cooperating with their subpoena to provide related documents.

This comes after Donald Trump directed Bannon and three other former aides - former social media czar Dan Scavino, former defense department official Kash Patel and former chief of staff Mark Meadows - to ignore the subpoena, likely because he will attempt to block their testimony in court.

Sources told the Guardian that Trump is claiming that the material that the committee is seeking from the four is covered by executive privilege.

Sources told CNN that both Bannon and Meadows have responded to subpoena, but it’s unclear if Meadows plans to cooperate. It’s unclear if Scavino or Patel have responded yet.

Updated

The House oversight committee received in July a trove of financial documents from the general services administration as part of the committee investigation into whether there was a conflict of interest in Donald Trump and his DC hotel, the Trump International Hotel Washington DC, holding a federal government lease on the Old Post Office building during his presidency.

These documents revealed what many have been trying to prove for years now but could not because of investigators would not make public the former president’s financial records - that Trump, who has always portrayed himself as a successful businessman who could turn a profit out of anything, was actually losing tens of millions of dollars while boasting that he was making tens of millions of dollars.

The documents have raised a number of other concerns, the committee noted. Among them:

  • Trump received “undisclosed preferential treatment” from Deutsche Bank - a foreign bank - on a $170m construction loan in 2018, which he did not disclose.
  • The Trump Hotel received about $3.7m in payments from foreign governments from 2017 to 2020, raising questions about possible violations of the foreign emoluments clause.
  • Trump concealed debts when he applied for the federal government lease in 2011. According to the documents, he provided the general services administration with financial information that omitted $1.1bn in outstanding loan balances for properties in Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, and San Francisco.
  • Trump transferred millions of dollars in and out of the Trump Hotel through affiliated entities and opaque transactions with other Trump businesses, which raises questions on whether the general services administration was able to enforce provisions that prohibited the president from taking money out of the business.

When he took office, Trump resigned from his companies but transferred his business interests to the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, and named as trustees his son, Donald J. Trump, Jr., and the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg. As the House committee noted, Trump remained the beneficiary of the trust, “meaning that any financial benefits that accrued to his businesses ultimately benefited him personally”.

Trump's DC hotel lost almost $74m during his presidency

While publicly claiming that the Trump International Hotel Washington DC was making more than tens of millions of dollars, the hotel lost almost $74m between 2016 and 2020, according to documents released by the House oversight committee.

The hotel had to be loaned more than $27m from one of Trump’s holding companies, DJT Holdings LLC, according to financial statements the committee obtained, and more than $24m was not repaid and was instead converted to capital contributions.

The House committee is investigating the federal government lease of the Old Post Office building to Trump for the hotel. The general services administration awarded the lease to Trump in 2012 and Trump opened the hotel in 2016 when he was the Republican nominee for president.

In a letter from the committee to the general services administration, representatives Carolyn Maloney and Gerald Connolly wrote that the newly obtained documents show that “President Trump’s federal financial disclosures projected an exaggerated image of financial success and hid the Trump Hotel’s serious financial problems, raising questions about the effectiveness of the current financial disclosure regime.

“In particular, the new documents show that while President Trump privately reported tens of millions of dollars in losses to GSA, he hid these losses from the American public by omitting them from his federally mandated, public financial disclosures,” the letter reads. “By portraying the hotel as a successful business, President Trump concealed significant ethical issues stemming from his failing business. The hotel’s massive losses decreased President Trump’s personal net worth, compromised the hotel’s ability to repay loans from other entities owned by the President, and potentially jeopardized his other personal assets due to the personal guarantee he provided for the Trump Hotel’s $170m debt.”

Read the whole letter here.

Updated

US economy adds far fewer jobs than expected in September

Meanwhile, our business live blog is tracking the September jobs figures that came out just now and it’s not looking good.

The US economy expected to add 500,000 more jobs in September, but in reality added just 194,000 jobs.

Follow here for more information:

Democrats are drawing a line in the sand when it comes to the raising the debt limit again in the next few weeks.

Republicans have said from the start that they want Democrats to raise the limit “on their own” via budget reconciliation, a lengthy and cumbersome process that will stymie the Democratic legislative agenda.

Congress at most is allowed to go the budget reconciliation route just three times a year, and Democrats have already used it to pass a $1.9tn Covid-19 relief bill and are now trying to use to pass Biden’s $3.5tn “human infrastructure” reconciliation bill to boost safety net, health and environmental programs.

In addition, the Democrats have the battle for voting rights ahead of them.

Senate Chris Coons is coming out strong in saying that Democrats won’t use reconciliation to deal with the debt ceiling. “We didn’t do it this time, won’t do it next time,” he said.

Here is the White House statement on Senate passing yesterday the deal to raise the debt limit by $480bn through 3 December. From White House press secretary Jen Psaki:

Tonight’s votes are welcome steps forward in averting a default that would have been devastating for our economy and for working families. President Biden looks forward to signing this bill as soon as it passes the House and reaches his desk. His focus remains on the task before us of swiftly passing his economic agenda and making vital investments in jobs, competitiveness, and lower prices for the middle class.

These votes underscore that raising the debt limit is a shared responsibility to pay for debts incurred in the past by Presidents and Congresses of both parties – debt that has nothing to do with President Biden’s fully paid-for economic agenda. As we move forward, there must be no question of whether America will pay its bills; Congress must address the debt limit in December and beyond – just as we’ve done almost 80 times over the last 60 years. Eleven Republicans did their part tonight, ending the filibuster and allowing Democrats to do the work of raising the debt limit. As we approach the coming months, we hope that even more Republicans will join Democrats in responsibly addressing the debt limit instead of choosing default or obstruction.

We cannot allow partisan politics to hold our economy hostage, and we can’t allow the routine process of paying our bills to turn into a confidence-shaking political showdown every two years or every two months.

Debt limit deal heads to the House amid partisan tensions

Hello, live blog readers. Happy Friday.

We’re not done with the debt limit deal yet - and, of course, let’s all remember, we won’t be done with the debt limit for a while as we’ll have to do this all again in a few weeks because the deal only extends the debt ceiling by $480bn through 3 December.

With a 50-48 vote, the Senate approved the deal Thursday night to extend the government’s borrowing authority, with the House coming back from recess early to vote on it Tuesday.

Politico is reporting that “a shouting match” erupted on the Senate floor after the vote, with Republican senators Mitt Romney and John Thune none too pleased with majority leader Chuck Schumer and what they thought was an ungracious speech.

Here’s video of the heated exchange - Schumer is sitting to the middle left when he is approached by Romney and Thune.

Schumer had lambasted the Republicans for playing a “dangerous and risky partisan game” and said Democrats were able to “pull our country back from the cliff’s edge that Republicans tried to push us over.”

The Republicans had twice used the filibuster to block the Democrats from raising the debt limit, and were threatening to do it once again before the deal. Their argument was that Democrats needed to raise the limit “on their own” via budget reconciliation, a lengthy and cumbersome process that would have consequences for the Democrats’ future legislative agenda.

Democrats then essentially bluffed by threatening a change to the filibuster rules, after which minority leader Mitch McConnell offered up the deal.

Centrist Democratic senator Joe Manchin could be seen putting his head in his hands during Schumer’s address, which he later called “inappropriate”.

Meanwhile, top Senate Republicans are now advancing a disinformation campaign over the debt ceiling, distorting the reasons for needing to raise the nation’s borrowing cap, Hugo Lowell reports.

Read more here:


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