Trump ally Steve Bannon indicted for contempt of Congress over Jan. 6 probe subpoena
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon exits the Manhattan Federal Court, following his arraignment hearing for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, August 20, 2020.
Andrew Kelly | Reuters
A federal grand jury indicted former Trump advisor Steve Bannon on Friday on charges of contempt of Congress that stemmed from his refusal to comply with a subpoena from House lawmakers investigating the deadly Capitol riot.
Bannon is expected to turn himself into law enforcement Monday and appear in court later that day, a law enforcement official told NBC News.
Bannon is the first person to face charges resulting from the select committee’s probe of the Jan. 6 invasion, when hundreds of former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol following months of Trump falsely claiming the 2020 election had been stolen from him.
In a statement later Friday, committee chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and vice chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said they are considering contempt proceedings against another Trump ally — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — for failing to comply with their subpoena.
Bannon, 67, faces two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide documents to the congressional investigators and refusing to sit for a deposition, the Department of Justice said in a press release.
A lawyer for Bannon told the House select committee in October that he would not comply with its subpoena because Trump had instructed him not to produce any documents or testimony “concerning privileged material.”
Bannon was a senior White House advisor during the first seven months of Trump’s single term in office. He was fired by Trump years before the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, which is the subject of the select committee’s investigation.
Thompson rejected the reference to executive privilege, the doctrine that allows some executive branch officials to keep some communications confidential, as an argument for noncompliance with a congressional subpoena.
The select committee shortly thereafter sent a contempt resolution to the full House of Representatives, which voted 229-209 to hold Bannon in contempt.
Each count of contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000.
A date has not yet been set for Bannon to be arraigned in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“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 the DOJ’s press release.
“Today’s charges reflect the Department’s steadfast commitment to these principles,” Garland said.
In addition to claiming his allies’ testimony is potentially protected by executive privilege, Trump has asserted that privilege covers many of the White House records being sought by the select committee as part of the Jan. 6 probe.
But President Joe Biden refused to invoke privilege over those records, prompting Trump to sue the committee in mid-October to block the disputed documents.
A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the privilege arguments put forward by Trump’s legal team, writing that Trump’s view “appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity.’ … But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”
Trump appealed the case the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which granted a temporary injunction to withhold the release of the White House records.
Trump, who never conceded the 2020 election to Biden, is hinting he will run for president again in 2024.