Trump ally Bannon speaks tough after court appearance
Washington – Long-time Trump ally Steve Bannon appeared before a judge Monday to face criminal contempt charges for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 congressional committee, then declared out of court that he was “challenging the Biden regime” in the face of the charges.
Bannon has not filed a petition and is due back in court Thursday for the next stage of what could be the first high-profile trial in connection with the January mutiny at the US Capitol.
Facing the fight out of court, he said he was “committing a crime” against the attorney general, the Speaker of the House and President Biden. He stated, “This would be a misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.”
Earlier today, 67-year-old Bannon surrendered to FBI agents. On Friday, he was charged with two federal charges of criminal contempt — one for refusing to appear before Congress and the other for refusing to submit documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.
Federal Magistrate Robin Meriwether released him without bail but required him to check in weekly with court officials and ordered him to hand over his passport. If convicted, Bannon faces a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year behind bars on each count, prosecutors said.
Outside the courtroom, a large inflatable mouse that looked like former Republican President Donald Trump was on the sidewalk as the crowd waited for Bannon to leave. Some of the crowd yelled insults at him and called him a traitor, and a man walked in with a sign that read: “Clowns are not above the law.”
The indictment came as the second expected witness, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, defied a separate subpoena from the committee on Friday, and as Trump escalated his legal battles to withhold documents and testimony about the insurgency. Bannon and Meadows are key witnesses to the commission because they were in close contact with Trump around the time of the January 6 Capitol attack.
If the House votes to despise Meadows, that recommendation will also be sent to the Department of Justice for a possible indictment.
Meadows was Trump’s top aide towards the end of his presidency and was one of the many people who lobbied state officials to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election that Democrat Biden won. Bannon promoted the January 6 protests on his podcast after predicting the day before that “all hell is going to explode”.
The panel said Bannon urged Trump to focus on congressional testimony and was present at an event at the Willard Hotel on Jan. 5 at which Trump allies tried to persuade lawmakers to vote against the results.
Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, said his client did not appear before Congress because another attorney told him not to come after Trump claimed executive privilege would apply.
“Mr. Bannon is a layman. When the lien is invoked by the alleged concessionaire, he has no choice but to withhold the documents. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle,” he said. Bannon acted as his lawyer advised him not to appear and not turn over the documents in this case. He did not refuse to comply.”
Schoen also decried the Justice Department’s decision to prosecute Bannon, claiming it contradicted Attorney General Garland’s statement of his commitment to equal justice under the law.
Officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations have been thought of in contempt by Congress, but criminal contempt indictments are extremely rare.
The indictment against Bannon comes after a slew of Trump administration officials – including Bannon – have defied requests and demands from Congress over the past five years with little consequence, including during the impeachment inquiry. The Obama administration has also refused to indict two of its officials in defiance of Congressional demands.
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.
Bannon, who worked in the White House at the beginning of the Trump administration and is currently the host of the conspiracy-minded podcast “War Room,” is a private citizen who “refused to appear to testify as required by a subpoena,” the indictment says.
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