Steve Bannon surrenders after indictment on contempt of Congress charges
Onetime Trump White House strategist Stephen Bannon surrendered himself to law enforcement Monday, and was set to appear for a hearing after he was indicted by a federal grand jury for defying a congressional subpoena.
Bannon is facing two charges of criminal contempt of Congress, one for failing to appear for an Oct. 14 deposition before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and another for refusal to provide documents to the panel.
The charges were filed by the Department of Justice on Friday, leaving Bannon facing a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $200,000 if convicted.
Flanked by a man holding a sign reading “coup plotter” as he entered into federal custody on Monday, Bannon briefly spoke to supporters on a livestream on the right-wing Gettr platform.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) November 15, 2021
“I want you guys to stay focused, stay on message. Remember signal, not noise,” he said.
“I don’t want anybody to take your eye off the ball of what we do every day.”
The move by the Justice Department comes as the Jan. 6 committee is facing a mounting number of uncooperative former White House employees, including former President Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, who failed to appear for a deposition last Friday.
But Bannon’s surrender on Monday comes as some observers say he may try to cast himself as a martyr for Trump.
“Mr. Bannon will comply with our investigation or he will face the consequences. Maybe he’s willing to be a martyr to the disgraceful cause of whitewashing what happened on January 6th — of demonstrating his complete loyalty to the former President,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), said of Bannon when the Jan. 6 panel first voted to refer him for criminal contempt charges in October.
“So I want other witnesses to understand something very plainly: If you’re thinking of following the path Mr. Bannon has gone down, you’re on notice that this is what you’ll face,” Thompson added.
At a brief court appearance Monday, Bannon was released without any bond, required to surrender his passport, get approval before leaving D.C. and complete a weekly telephone check-in with the court. He will be arraigned at a Thursday hearing.
Bannon has recently expanded his legal team to fight the charges.
According to Politico, Bannon has tapped both Trump impeachment attorney David Schoen and Evan Corcoran to represent him. Corcoran, a former U.S. attorney, is also representing Michael Riley, a U.S. Capitol Police officer charged with obstruction of justice after advising a Capitol rioter to delete video evidence of the raid from his social media accounts.
This is the second time in 15 months that Bannon has faced criminal charges. He was charged in August 2020 with defrauding donors for a private effort to fund the completion of Trump’s border wall, but was ultimately pardoned by the former president.
The Jan. 6 committee was seeking to speak with Bannon both due to his proximity to Trump and his efforts on planning leading up to the Capitol riot, including time spent in the “war room” at the Willard Hotel where the Trump team was organizing.
“You have been identified as present at the Willard Hotel on Jan. 5, 2021 during an effort to persuade members of Congress to block the certification of the Election the next day, and in relation to other activities on Jan. 6,” the panel wrote in a letter to Bannon.
“You are also described as communicating with then-President Trump on Dec. 30, 2020, and potentially other occasions, urging him to plan for and focus his efforts on Jan. 6. Moreover you are quoted as saying, on Jan. 5, 2021, that ‘[a]ll hell is going to break loose tomorrow.’”
An unredacted version of Bannon’s subpoena released after he didn’t appear for his deposition showed the committee also sought to question him over whether he coordinated with extremist groups and members of Congress ahead of the attack.
But Bannon argued he should not have to comply with the subpoena, pointing to direction from Trump calling the move a violation of his executive privilege.
The committee has called the claim invalid, arguing that only sitting presidents can block testimony and the release of documents to Congress.
A federal district judge initially sided with the committee in a case from Trump seeking to block the release of his presidential records, but the matter is now under appeal.
Updated at 3:23 p.m.