Steve Bannon has been indicted for refusing to comply with a subpoena regarding the Capitol attack.
A grand jury indicted a former Trump aide on two counts of contempt of Congress.
Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former adviser, has been charged with contempt of Congress for failing to appear before a congressional committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January.
According to the justice department, a federal grand jury indicted Bannon on two counts: refusing to attend for a deposition and refusing to disclose documents in answer to the committee’s subpoena.
CNN said that a judge had already signed an arrest warrant for Bannon, while MSNBC stated that he was scheduled to surrender on Monday and appear in court that afternoon.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that the indictment underscored the justice department’s unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law regardless of who is charged with a crime.
“Since my first day in office, I have told justice department staff that we would demonstrate to the American people by word and deed that the department upholds the rule of law, adheres to the facts and the law, and seeks equal justice under the law,” Garland said.
Each count carries a maximum sentence of 30 days to a year in prison. The indictment — the first in nearly 40 years for criminal contempt of Congress – will come as a relief to Trump detractors who felt Garland was being excessively cautious and going too slowly.
Bannon, 67, is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, which he once defined as “the platform of the ‘alt-right,'” a racist and anti-Semitic organization. He was appointed chairman of Trump’s 2016 election campaign and subsequently top strategist in the White House, but served for less than a year.
Bannon promoted erroneous conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and predicted on his 5 January show, “All hell will break free tomorrow.” That evening, he attended a group of Trump friends at Washington’s Willard hotel, dubbed the “war room” by a House of Representatives committee.
This inevitably made him a target, but Bannon’s lawyer warned the House committee in October that he would refuse to testify, citing Trump’s declaration of executive privilege. Legal experts quickly pointed out that because Bannon was a private individual throughout the uprising, this claim had little weight.
The House voted 229-202 last month to hold Bannon in contempt. The proposal received support from nine Republicans.
The House established the 6 January committee to investigate the attack, during which a pro-Trump mob rampaged into the Capitol, attempting to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over Trump.
Some of the committee’s work has been hindered by the administration’s refusal to cooperate with subpoenas to testify or give over records.
Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House top of staff, failed to appear before the committee earlier on Friday. Additionally, he risks a criminal contempt referral to the justice department.
The committee’s chairman, Bennie Thompson, and vice-chair, Liz Cheney, said in a joint statement: “It is unfortunate that Mr Meadows has chosen to join a very small group of witnesses who believe they are above the law and are openly defying a Select Committee subpoena. And, while we are committed to obtaining all of the facts we need, Mr Meadows, Mr Bannon, and anyone who choose this route will not succeed in obstructing the Select Committee’s efforts to obtain answers for the American people regarding January 6th.”
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, the committee’s Republican chairman, told CNN that he hoped Bannon’s indictment would send a “chilling message” to other subpoena recipients.
“It sends a critical message to any future invited witnesses… “Congress cannot be ignored,” Kinzinger stated.
Former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart tweeted: “The only way to make Bannon’s indictment genuinely relevant and send a clear message to anyone disobeying the law is to remand him to prison without bail.” This will communicate the message. I’m hoping the Judge has been keeping an eye on all of this.”
Bannon’s counsel did not reply quickly to a request for comment.