Steve Bannon indicted on contempt of Congress charges

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Steve Bannon indicted on contempt of Congress charges

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Steve Bannon, an ally of former President Donald Trump, was indicted Friday by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress for flouting a subpoena issued by the Democrat-led House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Bannon, 67, refused to show up to testify to the committee about the riot that disrupted the Electoral College vote count in Congress.

The Justice Department said in a statement that Bannon “is charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents.”

Bannon faces a minimum of 60 days in jail if convicted on both counts. Penalties could total up to two years in jail, with fines of up to $2,000, the department said.

The House voted 229-202 last month to approve a resolution holding Bannon in contempt. The resolution said Bannon “appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of January 6th, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions.”

The report cites Bannon’s communication with Trump in the days leading up to the attack and “his efforts to plan political and other activity in advance of January 6th,” pointing to his participation in a ‘‘war room’’ organized at the Willard Hotel on Jan. 5.

Trump has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to assert executive privilege over White House communications from his time as president to keep the records from being given to the committee. But Bannon was not a government employee at the time.

“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 a statement. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

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Read the indictment

The case opens the door to further prosecutions of Trump allies, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who flouted a subpoena on Friday by not showing up to a deposition.

“I will be recommending a contempt of Congress effort toward [Meadows] next week — the same thing we did for Steve Bannon,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said Friday. “We’ll probably do several more.”

But another committee member, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told CNN that Meadows and other people who worked at the White House on Jan. 6 may have stronger claims against testifying.

“Maybe Mark Meadows, for instance, can argue a little more logically” that executive privilege applies, Kinzinger said.

Trump has argued that the committee is part of an effort to harm him politically. Each of the panel’s nine members — including its two Republicans, Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), voted to impeach the then-president for allegedly inciting the riot.

According to a recent Reuters report, the FBI has found no evidence that the riot was an organized coup attempt. An analysis of video by the Wall Street Journal found members of the far-right Proud Boys group were key players in initial clashes with police and helped collapse an outer perimeter around the Capitol while Trump was speaking to thousands of supporters near the White House — telling them the election was “stolen.”

It’s rare for the Justice Department to prosecute someone for contempt of Congress. For example, in 2012 the Republican-led House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for declining to produce documents in the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal. Holder’s deputies never pursued the charge.

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Bannon worked as one of Trump’s 2016 campaign chairmen and as the Trump White House’s chief strategist until he was fired in August 2017. Trump brutally slammed “Sloppy Steve” in 2018 after Bannnon was quoted as calling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick” and Donald Trump Jr. “treasonous.”

Bannon was indicted last year for allegedly swindling donors who gave money to what they believed to be a fundraiser to privately construct part of the Mexico border wall. He returned to Trump’s good graces as he argued the 2020 election was “rigged” and Trump pardoned him in January in that case.

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