Dissecting Steve Bannon’s contempt conviction and the Jan. 6 committee’s accomplishments

Former President Trump's onetime adviser Steve Bannon was convicted Friday for contempt of Congress. It came a day after the Jan. 6 panel focused on Trump's inaction during the Capitol attack. Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, and former Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican, join Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And for more reaction to and analysis of last night's hearing, I'm joined by two people who've been following it closely, former Democratic United States Senator from Alabama Doug Jones and former Republican U.S. Representative from Virginia Barbara Comstock.

    Welcome to the program to both of you.

    Before I ask you about last night's hearing, let me first just ask you about today's news, Doug Jones, Senator Jones, that Steve Bannon found guilty by a federal jury of contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions by the — from the January 6 Committee.

    What's the significance of that?

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL):

    You know, thank you for having me, Judy. I appreciate it.

    And, look, this jury struck a blow for democracy. They struck a blow for truth, for accountability. They have struck a blow for the institutions of government, which have been under attack in this country over the last couple of years, and under attack by Steve Bannon.

    And I think the fact that Bannon was found guilty of flaunting the subpoena sends a significant message to a lot of people. Bannon the other day outside the courtroom challenged Bennie Thompson, said he was gutless, refused to come testify under oath in his criminal trial.

    But Bannon is the gutless one. He's the one that challenged everybody. He was gutless when he refused to testify under oath. He was gutless when he refused to testify at his trial. He's the one that's the coward and stands behind a microphone and a radio and just spits out just things that are just anti-democratic and anti-American.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Barbara Comstock, this first conviction of someone close to former President Trump, based on the work of this committee, how significant?

  • Fmr. Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA):

    Oh, very significant.

    And, as you know, Judy, I — before I was in Congress, I was a congressional counsel. And this is for the rights of Congress, asserting their right to investigate. So, I think it's very significant that now Congress can play its role in asserting its right to investigate.

    And so the gutless Steve Bannon, who was so critical in this insurrection, we know Steve Bannon was calling the president all during Christmastime, saying, get in there and be running this insurrection, which we know Steve Bannon was very much involved in.

    I think Steve Bannon is going to have more liability in this, because he was telling Donald Trump to come back and to be involved in this January 6 thing. Remember, the night before, Steve Bannon was saying, it's not going to be what you think it is. It's — all hell is going to break loose.

    And we now know, in October, Steve Bannon was on tape saying, even if Donald Trump loses, he's going to say he's going to win. So there's all kinds of documents and records, bank records that we need to get, from Steve Bannon.

    And now Congress can assert its authority. And I think Steve Bannon is going to have a whole lot more trouble. So he said he was going to go medieval. And I think — I certainly hope that Congress is going to go medieval in terms of getting these records on this guy who I think is very much an insurrectionist and was very key in involved in this whole plot to overthrow an election.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Let me — and, Doug Jones, let's turn now to these hearings.

    What do you think the committee has accomplished so far?

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones:

    oh, I think they have gone far above their expectations and — in the eyes of the American people.

    They have really put together a compelling story, and factually accurate, about what happened before, during and after January 6. They have put together — and they have done it not in a partisan way. I know there are a lot of people out there that think that this was just all about getting Donald Trump. It was not.

    It was all about democracy and getting to the truth of what happened on January 6 and how it was planned, what happened during that day, and what is going on even today as we speak, Judy.

    I think that they have done a remarkable job of connecting all the dots. And, really, all of those dots lead back to one person. They lead back to Donald Trump in some form or another.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Barbara Comstock, if the committee — the committee was about describing President Trump's role, former President Trump's role in all of this.

    But, in the end, if the people who support him are not watching these hearings, which they say they are not, how much — how much headway can the committee make?

  • Fmr. Rep. Barbara Comstock:

    Well, what's been so critical in this investigation, it's been Donald Trump's own presidential staff, his campaign staff, and his Justice Department staff unequivocally and consistently condemning him under oath and factually.

    This has never happened before. They have made the case, through contemporaneous documents, texts, saying, we told him he lost. He continually refused to accept it. His campaign manager said he lost. His attorney general said he lost. His own White House counsel again and again said he lost. They told him not to go to the Capitol. They told him not to say the things that he said.

    And then those 187 minutes when he said — when he refused to do anything, and then time and time again. His own vice president said he lost. So it is again and again his own people, his own daughter, his own son saying, you have got to say more.

    So it's its own people saying, you aren't — you lost. So you're seeing this sore loser again and again being told by his own people. So I think you have a very strong case of criminal liability. So I certainly hope the Justice Department will take this up.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that's what I want to ask you both about.

    Doug Jones, what amounts to success for this committee? Is it whether, in the end, there is a prosecution of former President Trump or not?

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones:

    No, I don't think that that is going to be a consideration for the success of the committee.

    This committee has succeeded. This committee has succeeded in putting forth the facts in a very compelling way, and facts, as Barbara said, from Trump's inner circle, of facts that show our threat to democracy and how fragile our democracy is, how it almost lost it on January 6, and how efforts are still today.

    So, I don't think that the Justice Department — which, by the way, I believe, is really working very, very hard. They're trying to put all of these pieces together in a way that can be presented in a court of law. It's a far different body than what we have seen with the January 6 Committee of what can be admissible in — to a court of law.

    I think they're working on that. But I don't think, at the end of the day, that an indictment is the barometer of the success of the committee. They have succeeded far and above what I believe most people thought that they would.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Barbara Comstock, how would you define success for this committee?

  • Fmr. Rep. Barbara Comstock:

    Well, I would agree with Doug that it's been successful, whether or not there's an indictment.

    And so I also think that the Justice Department, I do expect that they will probably have more information also.

    So, I agree that it's successful regardless, because the American people have seen what a sore loser and profile in cowardice that Donald Trump is, while we have also seen Liz Cheney being, I think, a profile in courage and many of our Capitol Police, how courageous they were, while you're seeing somebody like Josh Hawley running away and letting our poor Capitol Police have to be beaten for hours while Donald Trump was just sitting there watching this violence go on.

    So, I think, yes, they have been very successful on that front. But I also expect there will be lots more evidence coming forward. We have seen these courageous young women like — that we have seen that Donald Trump continues to attack, and they get death threats.

    But I do think there are more people daily coming forward who are going to continue to fill out this record. And I do think that the Justice Department will be able to fill in those gaps, and I expect will be able to have more indictments and continue to have convictions like we had today with Steve Bannon.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Former Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, former Democratic Senator Doug Jones, we thank you both.

  • Fmr. Rep. Barbara Comstock:

    Thank you.

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