What’s the definition of criminal contempt?


President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon speaks with reporters after pleading not guilty to charges that he ripped off donors to an online fundraising scheme to build a southern border wall, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

(WETM) – Former White House aide and longtime Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon was held in contempt of Congress by the committee investigating the January 6 capitol riot. The vote came after Bannon defied a subpoena for documents and testimony connected to the insurrection.

Still defending his supporters who broke into the Capitol that day, Trump has aggressively tried to block the committee’s work by directing Bannon and others not to answer questions in the probe. Trump has also filed a lawsuit to try to prevent Congress from obtaining former White House documents.

But what is the definition of ‘contempt of court”?

The Cornell Law School defines “Contempt of Court, Criminal” as “a criminal charge which is employed to punish behavior that interferes with the proceeding or orders of a court.”

The definition then splits into two parts: indirect and direct contempt. Indirect criminal contempt is based on a violation of a court order; direct criminal contempt is based on conduct during the actual court proceedings.

“Defendants charged with criminal contempt are afforded all the usual privileges of other criminal defendants, like the right to a trial by jury, to examine, and to call, witnesses, and to testify on one’s own behalf.”

CNN explains that the House has two other options to make someone honor a subpoena, as well: civil contempt and inherent contempt.

Civil Contempt would involve Congress asking a federal court to say that a person is legally obligated to honor a congressional subpoena.

Inherent Contempt is even more drastic, and would see the House Sergeant-at-Arms detaining a person to coerce them to comply with a subpoena. According to CNN, this is extremely rare and hasn’t happened in the modern era.

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