Nine House Republicans vote with Dems to hold Bannon in contempt after defying subpoena

(Massimo Percossi/ANSA via AP)

I thought there’d be three Republicans in favor in the end. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, of course, since they’re both on the January 6 committee, and Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzalez voted to impeach in January after the attack on the Capitol and then watched the GOP hug Trump even tighter over next six months. He announced his retirement in disgust last month so he had nothing to lose by crossing MAGA again and voting to refer Steve Bannon for criminal charges today.

Six more ended up voting yes, though. And did so despite the GOP leadership whipping against the vote. Huh.

The resolution passed 229-202. The local U.S. Attorney now has to bring the matter to a grand jury. If they indict Bannon, the DOJ will have to decide whether to bring him to trial.

Who are the “surprise six” Republicans who voted yes? Four of them voted to impeach Trump after the insurrection alongside Cheney, Kinzinger, and Gonzalez. That’s Jaime Herrera Beutler, John Katko, Fred Upton, and Peter Meijer, the only freshman who supported impeachment. Meijer’s a rep of rare integrity. He won’t last long in Congress.

It’s risky but logical for pro-impeachment Republicans to support a subpoena aimed at investigating the run-up to January 6. Maybe Beutler et al. have convinced themselves that they can get away with this vote without angering Trumpists since (a) Bannon was the target, not Trump, and (b) all of them except Cheney and Kinzinger voted against creating the January 6 committee. I think that’s a miscalculation, though. MAGA loves a litmus test and this obviously qualifies because the subpoena is aimed at uncovering what Trump knew in advance about the riot, which is why McCarthy and Steve Scalise urged a no vote. Anything that might expose the Great Man to legal or political jeopardy must be fought by Republicans and the nine who voted yes today didn’t “fight.”

Maybe Beutler and the rest believe that Trump fans can’t hate them more than they already do after voting for impeachment, making today’s vote costless. Although, if that were true, they should have also voted yes to create the January 6 committee, right?

The two big surprises among the yes votes were Nancy Mace of South Carolina and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. Fitzpatrick is a former FBI agent and has always been … lukewarm about Trump, let’s say. He opposed impeachment twice but offered a censure resolution condemning Trump after January 6. He also voted in favor of a House measure condemning some of Trump’s comments about the Squad a few years ago. And he supported a bipartisan January 6 commission (which was blocked by the Senate) before opposing Pelosi’s January 6 committee in the House. His Pennsylvania district is evenly divided between Republican and Democratic voters so he’s been trying to walk a line between not antagonizing either part too much. Today’s vote was a bone he threw to his Democratic constituents after throwing one to Republicans by voting against the formation of the committee awhile back.

Mace is a huge surprise, though. Her district is R+7 and she’s facing at least one MAGA primary challenger. And yet:

That’s a principled approach to today’s vote. You can disagree with the formation of the committee, but once it’s been formed members of Congress should stand up for its institutional powers. Mainstreaming the idea that congressional subpoenas can be ignored under flimsy claims of executive privilege will set a precedent that will be used against all House committees, not just the ones a member dislikes. When Congress is investigating and tells you to come and testify, you show up unless you have a sound legal reason not to. Bannon doesn’t. Simple as that.

But it’s not as simple as that in a GOP dominated by Trump and Mace knows that. She began her career in Congress this year saying that she wanted to be a voice of reason against conspiracy theorizing and took a stand on January 6 by not objecting to certifying Biden’s victory. Then the rioters showed up and she got cold feet. She voted against impeachment on dubious procedural grounds and has stood with MAGA on every key vote since, from siding with conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene when Dems stripped her of her committee assignments to supporting the ouster of Liz Cheney from GOP leadership. Clearly she’d been spooked by the thought of getting too far on the wrong side of Trump and had repositioned. Until today, when she voted to subpoena MAGA all-star Steve Bannon.

Doesn’t add up. Why antagonize her Trumpier voters after spending the past nine months making amends to them? Does she think they’ll let her slide on this because she’s earned enough brownie points with her other votes? Her primary opponents will disabuse her of that theory.

Maybe she’s afraid she’ll end up being redistricted into a less-red district next year. But even if so, her problem in a primary will remain. Either way, good for her for voting the right way.

Speaking of Cheney, she was the leader of the Republican opposition to Bannon and Trump today, as usual. In some ways she exercised that leadership formally:

(Banks was never the ranking member on the January 6 committee. He was McCarthy’s nominee to be a member but his nomination was rejected by Pelosi.) And in other ways less formally:

Meanwhile, the escalation between Cheney and Kevin McCarthy isn’t finished escalating. He hasn’t moved to exclude her from the caucus but he is reportedly moving to deprive her of political help ahead of her reelection bid:

A prominent Washington lobbyist close to Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, is warning Republican political consultants that they must choose between working for Representative Liz Cheney or Mr. McCarthy, an ultimatum that marks the full rupture between the two House Republicans.

Jeff Miller, the lobbyist and a confidant of Mr. McCarthy’s dating to their youthful days in California politics, has conveyed this us-or-her message to Republican strategists in recent weeks, prompting one fund-raising firm to disassociate itself from Ms. Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming.

They can’t kick her out of the party but I’ll be surprised if they don’t kick her out of the caucus before her primary, just to signal to Republican voters in Wyoming that she’s officially no longer part of the “team.”

I’ll leave you with this, a new statement from The Man Who Can’t Let Go undermining the GOP on a day when it was desperate to convince the public that everyone in their party has moved on from January 6 and “stop the steal.”

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