Steve Bannon has been indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress, D.C. federal prosecutors announced on Friday.
The charges relate to Bannon’s refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the House Jan. 6 Committee last month. One count relates to his refusal to appear for a deposition; the other for his refusal to provide records sought by the Committee.
The indictment comes after the House of Representatives voted to hold Bannon in contempt last month. Nine Republicans joined Democrats in that vote.
But the decision to charge Bannon demonstrates the willingness of the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland to back up the Jan. 6 Committee’s investigation with the rule of law.
Moreover, it comes as two other key witnesses — former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows — risk contempt charges for stonewalling the committee.
A federal magistrate will reportedly sign an arrest warrant on Friday.
Prosecutors say in the indictment that after receiving the subpoena on Sept. 24, Bannon did not communicate with the panel again until hours after missing his Oct. 7 deposition.
Later that day, Bannon attorney Robert Costello sent a letter to the panel citing former President Trump’s assertion of executive privilege as a reason not to comply.
After Bannon blew a second, rescheduled deposition using the same rationale, the panel moved to file contempt charges.
Trump has since used the same assertion of executive privilege in a lawsuit seeking to block the Jan. 6 Committee from accessing White House records related to the insurrection.
“Since my first day in office, 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,” said Attorney General Garland said in a statement. “Today’s charges reflect the Department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Both counts are misdemeanors, which come with a maximum of one year behind bars and a $1,000 fine.
Prosecutors’ decision to charge Bannon signals that the Justice Department views Trump’s assertion of executive privilege as so absurd that, for a defendant like Bannon, citing it is not a defense.
Bannon had not served in the White House since August 2017.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), one of two Republicans on the Committee, told CNN on Friday that the indictment was “great news.”
“It sends an important message to future invited witnesses,” he said. “Future folks that are subpoenaed. You cannot ignore Congress.”
After the indictment was announced, Committee co-chairs Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY) released a statement saying that Meadows’ decision to skip a Friday deposition would “force the Select Committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena.”
The indictment marks the first time anyone has been charged with contempt of Congress in 38 years, after Reagan-era EPA official Rita Lavelle’s 1983 charging. It is also the second time in 15 months that Bannon has faced a federal indictment, after Manhattan federal prosecutors filed fraud-related charges against him in August 2020 relating to Bannon’s involvement in the We Build The Wall fundraising scheme.
Read the indictment here: