Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon indicted by federal grand jury for contempt of Congress
WASHINGTON — Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was indicted by a federal grand jury Friday, charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to reply questions from the Home Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The indictment is a primary. Nobody has been prosecuted earlier than for contempt of Congress when government privilege was asserted. The previous circumstances concerned defendants whose testimony was sought concerning their authorities service. Bannon, in contrast, left his White Home job in 2017, effectively earlier than the interval of curiosity to the Home committee.
He was charged Friday with two contempt counts — one for refusing to look for a deposition and one other for declining to provide paperwork requested by the committee.
If convicted, Bannon might resist a yr behind bars and a effective of as much as $100,000.
A legislation enforcement official mentioned Bannon is anticipated to give up on Monday and seem in court docket that afternoon.
Neither Bannon nor his legal professional instantly responded to a request for remark.
Legal professional Normal Merrick Garland issued a short assertion explaining the choice to indict Bannon.
“Since my first day in workplace,” he mentioned, “I’ve promised Justice Division workers that collectively we might present the American individuals by phrase and deed that the division adheres to the rule of legislation, follows the details and the legislation, and pursues equal justice underneath the legislation. Right now’s prices mirror the division’s steadfast dedication to those ideas.”
The truth that the Justice Division was keen to cost Bannon with felony contempt, regardless of an assertion of government privilege, could assist stress different reluctant witnesses to comply with cooperate with the committee’s investigation.
The committee has subpoenaed 16 former Trump White Home officers for testimony, paperwork or each.
Committee chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and rating member Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., mentioned in a joint assertion Friday that the indictment ought to function a warning to another former Trump officers who’re contemplating defying a congressional subpoena.
“Steve Bannon’s indictment ought to ship a transparent message to anybody who thinks they’ll ignore the Choose Committee or attempt to stonewall our investigation: nobody is above the legislation,” the lawmakers mentioned. “We won’t hesitate to make use of the instruments at our disposal to get the data we want.”
The Home voted Oct. 27 to seek out Bannon in contempt after he declined to supply the Jan. 6 committee with paperwork and testimony. Committee members cited feedback Bannon made on his radio program the day earlier than the riot.
“All hell goes to interrupt unfastened tomorrow,” he mentioned on this system.
The Home panel mentioned the assertion advised that “he had some foreknowledge about excessive occasions that may happen the subsequent day.”
Bannon’s lawyer, Robert Costello, advised the committee in a letter that his consumer wouldn’t adjust to the subpoena. The letter mentioned former President Donald Trump was selecting to say government privilege and inspiring his former aides to not reveal something that may be lined by the privilege.
The extent of a former president’s capacity to invoke government privilege has by no means been firmly established. The U.S. Courtroom of Appeals for the District of Columbia has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 30 on the difficulty, within the dispute between Trump and the Nationwide Archives over scores of Trump White Home paperwork sought by the Jan. 6 committee.
Acquiring a conviction for any crime requires proof of performing with improper intent, and Bannon could have a robust protection in arguing that he was performing on the recommendation of his lawyer to not testify. Some federal courts have dominated that good-faith reliance on the recommendation of counsel is a whole protection in a felony contempt motion.
Like anybody charged with against the law, Bannon will now undergo the usual felony course of in federal court docket. He will likely be arraigned and can enter a plea. Except he pleads responsible, the decide will set a trial date. A conviction, nonetheless, wouldn’t require him to testify earlier than the Home committee. It could merely represent his punishment for refusing to take action.
The file of profitable prosecutions for contempt of Congress is a slim one. The authority was extensively invoked in the course of the anti-communist hearings of the Nineteen Fifties, however lots of these circumstances ended both in acquittal or dismissal on enchantment.
The final Justice Division prosecution of a contempt referral got here in 1983, in the course of the Superfund investigation within the Reagan administration. Former EPA official Rita Lavelle was charged with contempt however her case, too, resulted in acquittal.
Dartunorro Clark contributed.