Bannon was found guilty of contempt for defying a 1/6 subpoena
Washington Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, has been indicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena from the House committee investigating the violent insurgency on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol.
On Friday, the Justice Department said Bannon, 67, was charged with one count of refusing to appear in court last month and one count of refusing to submit documents in response to the committee’s subpoena. Each count carries a minimum of 30 days in prison and up to a year behind bars.
Bannon is expected to turn himself in to authorities on Monday and appear in court that afternoon, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press. The official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
A procession of Trump administration officials, including Bannon, has defied requests and demands from Congress over the past five years with few results, including during the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The Obama administration has also refused to indict two of its officials in defiance of Congressional demands.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Bannon’s indictment reflects the Department of Justice’s “firm commitment” to the rule of law.
The House voted to detain Bannon in contempt of Congress on October 21 after he refused to appear to testify or even engage with the committee during the investigation into the Trump partisan siege, which was the worst attack on the Capitol in two centuries.
Another expected witness, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, defied a subpoena from the commission on Friday, as Trump escalated his legal battles to withhold documents and testimony about the insurgency.
If the House votes to despise Meadows, that recommendation will go to the Department of Justice for a possible indictment. Jan. 6 committee chair Representative Benny Thompson, D-Mies, told reporters at an event in his state Friday that he will recommend contempt charges against Meadows next week.
In a statement, Thompson and the committee’s Republican vice chair, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, said Bannon’s indictment “should send a clear message to anyone who believes they can ignore the selection committee or attempt to block our investigation: No one is above the law.”
They added, “Mr. Promoter, Mr. Bannon, and others who go this route will not prevail.”
Congress has protested against officials in both the Democratic and Republican administrations, but criminal contempt charges are rare. The most recent high-profile examples of criminal penalties for failing to testify before Congress date back to the 1970s, including when aide to President Richard Nixon G. Gordon Lady was convicted on misdemeanor charges for refusing to answer questions about his role in the Watergate scandal.
Bannon and Meadows are key witnesses to the commission because they were in close contact with Trump around the time of the uprising.
Meadows was Trump’s top aide towards the end of his presidency and was one of many people who lobbied state officials to try to nullify the results of the 2020 election that Democrat Joe Biden won. Bannon promoted the January 6 protests on his podcast after predicting the day before that “all hell is going to explode”.
The indictment says Bannon did not communicate with the committee in any way since he received the subpoena on September 24 until October 7, when his attorney sent a letter, seven hours after the documents were due.
The indictment said Bannon, who left his White House job in 2017 and is currently a host for the conspiracy-minded podcast “War Room,” is a private citizen who “refused to appear to testify as requested in the subpoena.” .
When Bannon declined to appear in his statement in October, his attorney said the former Trump adviser had been instructed by an attorney for Trump, citing executive privilege, not to answer questions. Bannon’s lawyer did not respond to a letter seeking comment on Friday.
This isn’t the first time Bannon has faced legal jeopardy. In August last year, Bannon was pulled off a luxury yacht and arrested over allegations that he and three aides robbed donors trying to fund a US-Mexico border wall. Trump pardoned Bannon in the final hours of his presidency.
Meadows, a former congressman from North Carolina, defied his subpoena after weeks of discussions with the committee. His attorney said Meadows had an “acute legal dispute” with the commission in which Trump was asserting Meadows’ executive privilege for Meadows’ testimony, as Trump did with Bannon.
The White House said in a letter Thursday that Biden would waive any privilege preventing Meadows from cooperating with the committee, prompting Meadows’ lawyers to say he would not comply.
“Legal disputes are adequately resolved by the courts,” said attorney George Terwilliger. “It would be irresponsible for Mr. Meadows to prematurely resolve this dispute by voluntarily waiving the privileges that are at the heart of those legal issues.”
Biden waived most of Trump’s assertions of privilege over the documents and interviews, citing the public’s interest in learning what happened on January 6. Trump sued the commission and the National Archives to stop the release of the documents, and US District Judge Tanya Chutkan. He has repeatedly backed Biden’s position, stating in a ruling last week that “presidents are not kings and the prosecutor is not the president.”
The commission’s actions and attempts to gather information were delayed while Trump appealed Chutkan’s decisions. On Thursday, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the release of some White House records that the committee is seeking, giving the court time to consider Trump’s arguments.
Nevertheless, the committee continues its work, and members have interviewed more than 150 witnesses in an effort to build a comprehensive record of how a violent mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and temporarily halted certification of Biden’s victory.
The committee summoned nearly thirty people, including former White House staffers, Trump allies who strategized how to reverse his defeat, and people who organized a massive rally near the White House on the morning of January 6. Bannon refused, and several others spoke to the commission and submitted documents.
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Neumann Merchant, Zeke Miller, Fernoush Amiri, Jill Colvin in Washington, and Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi contributed to this report.
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