Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, surrendered to federal authorities this morning, defying a subpoena from the select committee investigating the January 6 incident at the Capitol.
Bannon was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress by the Department of Justice on Friday for refusing to attend for a deposition and give over documents to the select committee. The committee has also subpoenaed former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, conservative lawyer John Eastman, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, and senior adviser Stephen Miller.
Bannon’s refusal to cooperate with the committee’s subpoenas created a precedent among high-level Trump advisors, who followed suit. Following Bannon’s public defiance of the committee, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows refused to appear for a deposition ordered by the committee.
Meadows and others who have been subpoenaed may now cooperate as a result of Bannon’s indictment.
Bannon stood in front of a court this afternoon to face criminal contempt charges for ignoring the subpoena.
On Friday, the 67-year-old was charged with criminal contempt on two counts: one for failing to attend for a congressional deposition and the other for failing to submit papers in answer to the committee’s subpoena.
During the hearing, Bannon did not enter a plea. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather freed him without bond but ordered him to report to court authorities regularly and forfeit his passport. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Thursday.
Prosecutors stated that if convicted, Bannon faces a minimum of 30 days in prison and a maximum of one year in prison on each offense. As media waited for Bannon to exit the courtroom, a big inflatable rat resembling former President Trump stood on the pavement.
The indictment came as a second scheduled witness, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, refused to comply with a separate subpoena from the committee on Friday, and as Trump increased his legal fights to conceal records and testimony regarding the insurgency.
If the House votes to impeach Meadows, the referral will be sent to the Justice Department for potential prosecution.
Officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations have been held in contempt by Congress, although criminal contempt prosecutions are very unusual.
The indictment of Bannon comes after a succession of Trump administration employees, including Bannon, disobeyed congressional requests and demands over the last five years with minimal consequence, even amid an impeachment investigation. The administration of President Barack Obama also refused to prosecute two of its officials who disregarded legislative requests.
According to the indictment, Bannon did not interact with the committee in any manner from the time he got the subpoena on Sept. 24 and Oct. 7, when his lawyer submitted a letter seven hours after the records were due.
Bannon, who served at the White House at the start of Trump’s presidency and now hosts the conspiracy-minded “War Room” podcast, is a private person who “refused to appear to give testimony as required by a subpoena,” according to the indictment.
According to retired FBI special agent Clint Watts, Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s indictment on Friday was important to safeguard the rule of law.
According to Watts, an MSNBC national security analyst, the disadvantage is that Bannon would surely use the indictment to enrage former President Donald Trump’s fans.
“It had to be pushed to this level, and I’m thankful that it (was),” Watts told the network’s Deadline: White House program on Friday afternoon. “What I would say, though, is while it seems dumb legally, in terms of politics, for Steve Bannon’s orbit and the information environment, this is what they were hoping for in some ways, which is now they have a new war they can fight. It’s always looking to poke a fight or provoke a fight and develop a new war in the social media space and the information space to rally a base that does not have much to cheer about.”
With former President Donald Trump banned from major social media platforms, the national dialogue is “just not what it was one or two years ago.”
“I don’t care what you think the electoral outcome was, the enthusiasm has been dying,” Watts said. “So this gives them one more thing, and this is Steve Bannon’s war, and he’s always said ‘the war on the administrative state,’ and he’s trying to provoke that war, and I’m sure we’re going to see a continuation of this, and it won’t go quietly.”
Bannon will be “seen as a political martyr, which would then inflame these groups,” according to MSNBC contributor and Princeton University professor Eddie Glaude.
“In some ways, our worry about inflaming the opposition has led to us being cautious, but it seems to me that this is a step necessary in order to protect our democracy, and if we didn’t do it, we would in some ways seal our fate,” Glaude added.
We are “entering a dangerous phase,” according to David Rohde, executive editor of the New Yorker magazine.
“The polarization in this country will deepen as this investigation continues,” Rohde then stated. “There’s no choice. This subpoena had to be issued, this subpoena had to be enforced, and Steve Bannon needs to be prosecuted for defying it. But we just should brace ourselves. It’s inevitable that this will be seen as proof of some giant conspiracy by the courts, the media, and the ‘deep state’ to silence Trump and his supporters.”