After refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6 rebellion at the United States Capitol, Steve Bannon, a close confidant of former President Donald Trump, was charged on Friday with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress.
Mr. Bannon (67) was charged on two counts, according to the Justice Department: one for refusing to attend for a deposition last month and the other for refusing to disclose documents in response to a subpoena issued by the Committee on Governmental Affairs. A law enforcement official told the Associated Press that he is likely to surrender to police on Monday and will appear in court in the afternoon of the same day. The individual’s identity has been protected in order to discuss the matter.
After finding Mr. Bannon in contempt of Congress, the House forwarded the case to the United States Attorney’s Office in Washington for a determination on whether or not to prosecute him.
Trump has urged his former aides and advisors to assert immunity and abstain from giving over any records that may be protected by executive privilege, according to reports.
Mr. Bannon’s indictment, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland, demonstrates the Justice Department’s “steadfast commitment” to the rule of law. Each offence carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in imprisonment and a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
A second planned witness, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, refused to appear before the committee on Friday, and Mr. Trump has increased his legal efforts to conceal records and evidence related to the uprising.
Both Democratic and Republican administrations have been found in contempt of Congress, although criminal charges for contempt of Congress are very unusual in the United States. For example, in the 1970s, President Richard Nixon’s adviser G. Gordon Liddy was convicted of misdemeanour charges for refusing to answer questions about his participation in the Watergate affair. This was the first time a criminal penalty for refusing to testify before Congress had been established.
Members of Congress who voted to impeach Mr. Bannon applauded the Justice Department’s decision, saying the charges strengthen Congress’s ability to probe the executive branch and foreshadow possible repercussions for individuals who fail to comply with the investigation.
The chairman of the January 6 panel, Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, told reporters on Friday at a press conference in his home state of Mississippi that he would propose contempt proceedings against Mr. Meadows the following week.
Mr. Thompson and the panel’s vice chairwoman, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said in a statement that “Mr. Meadows, Mr. Bannon, and others who go down this path will not prevail in stopping the Select Committee’s effort to get answers for the American people about January 6, making legislative recommendations to help protect our democracy, and helping to ensure nothing like that day ever happens again.” Mr. Meadows, Mr. Bannon, and others who go down this path will not prevail in stopping the Select Committe.
This isn’t the first time the longtime Trump friend has found himself in legal trouble, though. Mr. Bannon was detained in August of last year after being hauled from a luxury boat on claims that he and three friends defrauded donors who were attempting to raise money for a southern border wall. Mr. Bannon was eventually pardoned by Mr. Trump, who did so in the last hours of his administration.
Since taking office, Mr. Biden has waived most of Mr. Trump’s claims of executive privilege on records and interviews, citing the public’s interest in learning what transpired on January 6. Ms. Chutkan has frequently sided with Mr. Biden’s stance, noting in a recent order that “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not the President,” referring to Mr. Trump’s lawsuit against the committee and the National Archives to prevent the release of information.
Because Mr. Trump has filed an appeal against Ms. Chutkan’s judgments, the panel’s hearings and efforts to acquire material have been put on hold. According to reports, a federal appeals court on Thursday temporarily delayed the release of certain White House data sought by a congressional committee, allowing that court time to weigh Mr. Trump’s claims in his lawsuit against the government.
But the House panel is continuing its investigation, and its members have already interviewed more than 150 witnesses in an attempt to compile a comprehensive record of how a violent mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters broke into the Capitol and temporarily halted the certification of Mr. Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Over three dozen persons have been summoned by the committee, including former White House officials, Trump friends who strategized about how to reverse his loss, and those who planned a massive demonstration outside the White House on the morning of January 6. Aside from those who objected, such as Mister Meadows and Mister Bannon, others have talked with the panel and given documentation.