WASHINGTON (AP) – Longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon appeared before a judge to be charged with criminal contempt to defy a summons from the congressional committee on January 6, then stubbornly declared out of court that he “took on the Biden regime” in the fight against the prosecution.
Bannon did not file a prayer Monday and is due back in court on Thursday for the next phase of what could be the first high-level trial in connection with the January uprising in the US capital..
The out-of-court fighter, he said, was an “offense” against the Attorney General, Parliament Speaker and President Biden. He declared: “This will be a misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.”
The 67-year-old Bannon surrendered earlier in the day to FBI agents. He was indicted on Friday on two federal charges of criminal contempt – one for refusing to appear for a congressional adjournment and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.
Federal Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather released him without bail, but demanded that he check in weekly with court officials and order him to hand over his passport. If convicted, Bannon faces a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year behind bars for each charge, the prosecutor said.
Outside the courthouse, a large inflatable rat made former Republican President Donald Trump look like he was on the sidewalk while a crowd waited for Bannon to leave. Some in the crowd shouted at him and called him a traitor, and a man paraded around with a sign that read, “Clowns are not above the law.”
The indictment came as another expected witness, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, defied a separate subpoena from the committee on Friday, and as Trump has escalated his legal battles to withhold documents and testimony about the uprising. Bannon and Meadows are key witnesses to the committee because they were both in close contact with Trump around the time of the January 6 Capitol attack.
If Parliament votes to hold Meadows in contempt, that recommendation will also be sent to the Department of Justice for a possible indictment.
Meadows was Trump’s top aide at the end of his presidency and was one of several people who pressured government officials to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which was won by Democrat Biden. Bannon promoted the protests on Jan. 6 on his podcast after predicting the day before that “hell will break loose.”
The committee said Bannon urged Trump to focus on congressional certification and was present at an event at the Willard Hotel on Jan. 5 where Trump’s allies tried to persuade members of Congress to vote against the results.
Bannon’s lawyer, David Schoen, said his client did not appear before Congress because he was told by another lawyer not to come after Trump claimed executive privilege would apply.
“Mr Bannon is a layman. Once the privilege has been invoked by the alleged holder of the privilege, he has no choice but to withhold the documents. You can not put the spirit back in the bottle,” he said. Bannon acted as his lawyer advised him to do by not appearing and by not disclosing documents in this case. He did not refuse to follow it. “
Schoen also rejected the Justice Department’s decision to prosecute Bannon, arguing that it violates Attorney General Garland’s statement of obligation to equal justice under the law.
Officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations have been held in contempt by Congress, but criminal charges of contempt are extremely rare.
The indictment against Bannon comes after a number of officials in the Trump administration – including Bannon – defied requests and demands from Congress over the past five years with little consistency, including during a federal lawsuit. President Barack Obama’s administration also refused to target two of its officials who defied congressional demands.
The indictment states that Bannon did not communicate with the committee in any way from the time he received the subpoena on September 24 to October 7, when his lawyer sent a letter, seven hours after the documents were due to expire.
Bannon, who worked in the White House at the beginning of the Trump administration and currently hosts the conspiracy-oriented “War Room” podcast, is a private citizen who “refused to appear to testify as required by a subpoena. ” says the indictment.