Steve Bannon indicted by federal grand jury
A federal grand jury has indicted Steve Bannon, the one-time White House adviser to former President Trump, after he failed to comply with a subpoena from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Bannon now faces two charges of contempt of Congress, one for failing to appear for an Oct. 14 deposition before the panel and another for refusal to provide documents.
“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the indictment.
“Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
The indictment notes that Bannon refused to “comply in any way” with the subpoena, laying out numerous exchanges between Bannon’s attorney and the committee.
The indictment indicates the Department of Justice is willing to seek criminal charges as the committee faces a mounting number of witnesses who are refusing to cooperate.
If convicted, Bannon faces a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of $100 to $1,000. A federal district court judge will ultimately determine his sentence. An arraignment date has not yet been set.
Neither Bannon nor his attorney immediately responded to request for comment.
The House voted in late October to censure Bannon after he refused to meet with the committee, following directions from Trump who said he would challenge the committee’s moves as a violation of executive privilege.
“We are here this afternoon to test a proposition as old as the country’s founding. Are we a nation of laws? We are here because one man has decided that we are now only a nation of men, and that rich and powerful men need not follow the law. And the question we must confront is nothing less than this: Is he right?” Rep Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said ahead of the vote.
“Are some people now truly above the law, beholden to nothing and no one, free to ignore the law and without consequence?”
Observers were unsure whether Garland would pursue charges given his efforts to restore the reputation of the Department of Justice and counter its politicization under the Trump administration.
Taking such an action against a longtime Trump loyalist could counteract that mission, but the move could also bolster the committee as two other Trump associates have bucked its requests.
“Steve Bannon’s indictment should send a clear message to anyone who thinks they can ignore the Select Committee or try to stonewall our investigation: no one is above the law. We will not hesitate to use the tools at our disposal to get the information we need,” Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in a statement.
Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows failed to appear before the committee for a deposition Friday, leading the committee to likewise threaten to “consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena.”
Jeffrey Clark, a former mid-level DOJ attorney Trump once mulled installing as Attorney General to have him pursue his election fraud claims, also refused to cooperate with the committee last week.
“Until such time as you reach an agreement with President Trump or receive a court ruling as to the extent, scope and application of the executive privilege … Mr. Bannon will not be producing documents or testifying,” Bannon attorney Bob Costello wrote the committee the day before Bannon was scheduled to testify.
The committee has largely rejected their executive privilege claims, arguing that only President Biden currently has such power to withhold documents from Congress, while Trump, as a former official, does not.
But it was Bannon’s claims that he could not appear due to Trump’s executive privilege claims that prompted lawmakers to say it showed why his testimony would be so valuable.
“Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however,’” committee Vice Chair Liz Chaney (R-Wyo) said as the panel was weighing whether to forward him to the full House for censure.
“They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of Jan. 6th. And we will get to the bottom of that.”
Bannon’s subpoena asked him to detail any involvement Trump had in planning the rally on Jan. 6, as well as any conversions he had with anyone else at the White House about the former president’s remarks at the rally.
It also asks about activities at the Willard Hotel, where the Trump team established a “war room” to act on Trump’s faulty election fraud claims and where Bannon attended a meeting on Jan. 5.
He was also set to be questioned about statements he made on his podcast ahead of the rally.
“It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen. … All I can say is strap in. … You made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day, so strap in,” Bannon told listeners.
Updated at 5:46 p.m.
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