WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon, who served as a senior aide to President Donald J. Trump, surrendered to authorities and appeared in federal court on Monday, three days after he was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Mr. Bannon’s formal booking and first court appearance in the case — and his promise to fight back aggressively against what he characterized as a political prosecution — marked an escalation in the clash between Mr. Trump’s allies and the committee, which has issued scores of subpoenas seeking testimony and documents that could help it assemble a definitive account of the attack and what led to it.
The charges against Mr. Bannon served as a warning to those who choose to defy the committee’s requests for information. However, Mr. Bannon also demonstrated that he plans to use the attention given to the criminal case to promote his views to a wider audience.
Before entering the F.B.I.’s Washington field office, where he surrendered at around 9:30 a.m., and after leaving court later that afternoon, Mr. Bannon made statements that falsely implied that Mr. Trump had won the 2020 election. He told his supporters to remain focused on taking on “the illegitimate Biden regime.”
“This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell,” Mr. Bannon said after he emerged from his initial court appearance before a federal magistrate, Judge Robin M. Meriweather. He was followed by a video crew, promoting his media operation, and surrounded by reporters and photographers. He stated that he planned to use the legal process against Attorney General Merrick B. Galrland, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and President Biden.
“We’re going to go on the offense on this,” he told reporters outside the courthouse, saying he was fighting for freedom of speech and liberty and assailing the prosecution as partisan.
“Every progressive, every liberal in this country that likes freedom of speech and liberty, OK, should be fighting for this case,” he said, even though the charges against him are not related to the First Amendment.
Last month, Mr. Bannon, 67, refused to comply with subpoenas from a House select committee requesting documents and testimony from him. The House voted to indict him for criminal contempt of Congress, and referred the matter the Justice Department.
Trump has instructed his former aides, and advisers to invoke immunity. They also asked them to refrain from turning over documents that might have been protected by executive privilege.
After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. The matter was investigated by agents from the Washington field office. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and the Justice Department announced on Friday that a federal grand jury had indicted him on those charges.
One contempt count is related to Mr. Bannon’s refusal to appear for a deposition, and the other is for his refusal to produce documents for the committee. Each count carries a minimum 30 days and maximum one year in prison, as well as a fine between $100 and $100,000.
When he appeared before Judge Meriweather, Mr. Bannon didn’t enter a plea. He was released under personal recognizance, pending his next hearing on Thursday at the Federal District Court in Washington.
In September, Mr. Bannon was subpoenaed by the committee along with several others who had ties the Trump White House. Since then, scores of subpoenas have been issued to other people with connections to the former President.
Understand the Claim of Executive Privilege in the Jan. 6. Inquiry
This is a key issue that has yet to be tested. Donald Trump’s power as former president to keep information from his White House secret has become a central issue in the House’s investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Amid an attempt by Mr. Trump to keep personal records secret and the indictment of Stephen K. Bannon for contempt of Congress, here’s a breakdown of executive privilege:
In a report recommending that the House find Mr. Bannon in contempt, the committee repeatedly cited comments Mr. Bannon made on his radio show on Jan. 5 — when he said “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow” — as evidence that “he had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day.”
Investigators also found evidence of a conversation between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Trump on December 30, where he encouraged him to put his efforts into Jan. 6. According to the committee, Mr. Bannon was also present at the meeting at the Willard Hotel Washington on Jan. 5, when plans were made to overturn the election results the following day.
While many people who were subpoenaed have expressed an interest in working with the committee, Mr. Bannon claimed that Trump’s conversations were covered under executive privilege. This claim was made by Mr. Bannon even though he had not been employed in the White House for many years at the time.
The indictment of Mr. Bannon also raised questions about similar potential criminal exposure for Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff.
Before the Justice Department announced the indictment of Mr. Bannon, Mr. Meadows, a former House member from North Carolina, failed to meet a deadline on Friday for complying with the House committee’s request for information.
Representative Bennie Thompson (Democrat of Mississippi) and Representative Liz Cheney (Republican of Wyoming) have stated that they will now consider pursuing contempt cases against Mr. Meadows.
Source: NY Times