What Happened to Steve Bannon?
Steve Bannon has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena issued by the parliamentary committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol siege.
Bannon, who served as a political adviser to former President Donald Trump, is accused of neglecting to attend a deposition and refusing to turn over documents.
The Justice Department’s action subjects Bannon to penalties and up to a year in prison on each count. It comes after weeks of consideration by prosecutors in the District of Columbia’s United States Attorney’s Office, who will handle the criminal prosecution.
“Since my first day in office, I have pledged to Justice Department employees that we would demonstrate to the American people through word and deed that the department upholds the rule of law, adheres to the facts and the law, and pursues equal justice under the law,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “Today’s charges demonstrate the department’s unwavering adherence to these principles.”
According to a Justice Department official who was not authorized to comment on the record, Bannon is expected to surrender Monday and appear in court that afternoon.
Bannon declined to assist with a House subcommittee probing the Capitol storming, claiming Trump’s declaration of executive privilege protected him.
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However, legal experts determined that Bannon’s argument lacked merit because he is a private man who has not worked inside the White House in years — and because the current president, Joe Biden, waived privilege on multiple subjects before the House committee.
Not only did Bannon refuse to release materials, but they also failed to appear before the committee for testimony. As a result, last month, the House decided to accept a criminal contempt referral for him.
Consequences for the work of the select committee
Attorneys for defense in Washington had anticipated the Justice Department would draw a line with Bannon. Indeed, a decision not to prosecute Bannon could have prompted others to withdraw their cooperation, thereby shutting down the entire House investigation.
In recent weeks, Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. has issued dozens of subpoenas to individuals within and outside the Trump administration.
The panel appears to be pursuing several avenues, including knocking on the doors of Trump’s inner circle at the White House, as well as individuals who attended meetings at the Willard Hotel and elsewhere in the run-up to Jan. 6.
“The Select Committee will utilize every available instrument to obtain the information it seeks, and witnesses who attempt to stonewall the Select Committee will fail,” Thompson stated last month. “All witnesses are obligated to furnish the Committee with any information they may have for the Committee to ascertain the facts.”
Bannon’s special conundrum
According to academics who research executive privilege, the decision regarding Bannon is more complicated than the public may realize.
Jonathan Schaub, a law professor at the University of Kentucky, noted in a recent Lawfare post that the Justice Department frequently declines to prosecute government officials for contempt after the president asserts executive privilege — and it’s unclear how persuasive an assertion by a former president would be in the courts.
Garland had previously stated that any judgment about Bannon would be made based on facts and law — not politics.
However, everything grew problematic when Biden told reporters that he believed anybody who disobeyed the Jan. 6 committee should face punishment.
Anthony Coley, a Justice Department spokesman, stated that the DOJ would “… Period. Make its independent determinations in all prosecutions. Completely.”
The tangled web of Bannon’s relationships to the White House
Bannon, 67, has previously been afoul of the law. However, Trump pardoned Bannon in the dying hours of his administration this year, allowing him to escape prosecution on charges of scamming Americans who donated to build a wall along the southern border.
“Mr. Bannon has been a key figure in the conservative movement and is well-known for his political skill,” Trump’s press secretary at the time, Kayleigh McEnany, stated.
Bannon fell out of favor with Trump in 2017, which resulted in his dismissal as the White House’s top strategist. However, the two men reconciled, and by January, Bannon was promoting the Washington demonstration on his “War Room” podcast.
“Tomorrow, all hell will break free,” Bannon assured his audience on Jan. 5, just hours before the Capitol was stormed.
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