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Bannon surrenders in contempt case

Trump ally appears before U.S. magistrate judge, is released on court supervision by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | November 16, 2021 at 4:11 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- Longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon appeared before a judge Monday to face criminal contempt charges for defying a subpoena from Congress' Jan. 6 committee, then declared combatively outside court that he was "taking on the Biden regime" in fighting the charges.

Bannon, 67, entered the FBI field office in downtown Washington after walking through a crowd of photographers, saying: "I don't want anybody to take their eye off the ball for what we do every day. ... We're taking down the Biden regime."

In court, Bannon appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather, who read the charges against him: two counts of contempt of Congress, each punishable by at least 30 days and up to a year in jail if convicted and up to a $100,000 fine

Bannon was not arraigned and did not enter a plea. He will appear Thursday before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols of Washington.

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Prosecutors did not seek detention for a misdemeanor offense, and Bannon was released after swearing to comply with pretrial court supervision, including weekly check-ins by phone and notifying the court of any travel outside the D.C. area. Afterward, he spoke outside the court to reporters while protesters held up a sign saying "coup plotter" behind them.

"I'm telling you right now this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden," Bannon told reporters. "We're going to go on the offense on this and stand by."

Bannon's lawyer, David Schoen, said his client didn't appear before Congress because he was told by another lawyer not to come after Trump claimed executive privilege would apply.

"Mr. Bannon is a lay person. When the privilege has been invoked by the purported holder of privilege, he has no choice but to withhold the documents. You can't put the genie back in the bottle," he said. "Mr. Bannon acted as his lawyer counseled him to do by not appearing and by not turning over documents in this case. He didn't refuse to comply."

Schoen also decried the Justice Department's decision to prosecute Bannon, claiming it runs counter to Attorney General Garland's statement of commitment to equal justice under the law.

The House committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Justice Department said that it "typically does not comment on cases beyond what is stated or submitted to the Court and has no comment on this particular matter."

A federal grand jury indicted Bannon on Friday after he ignored a Sept. 23 subpoena to testify before and provide documents to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The committee wants to question Bannon about activities at the Willard hotel the night before the riot, when Trump supporters sought to persuade Republican lawmakers to block certification of the 2020 election results.

Its subpoena noted that Bannon predicted that "hell is going to break loose" on Jan. 6. The committee's report recommending that Bannon be found in contempt said the comments indicated he "had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day."

In declining to cooperate, Bannon's attorney wrote the committee in October saying he was contacted by Trump lawyer Justin Clark and instructed not to respond, and would not cooperate pending a court order or a committee agreement with Trump.

Biden's White House counsel's office, however, has declined to assert executive privilege for documents and witnesses related to the Jan. 6 riot. A Trump lawsuit challenging whether a former president's assertion of executive privilege can countermand a sitting president's waiver of that privilege is pending before the federal courts, with a hearing set for Nov. 30.

The crosscutting legal battles reflect the committee's desire to move swiftly, and the outcome could influence how and when other witnesses respond.

The indictment is Bannon's second since last year. In 2020, he was charged alongside three others in an alleged fundraising scam targeting the donors of a private campaign to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bannon, who pleaded innocent in that federal case, was accused of pocketing more than $1 million from his involvement with We Build the Wall while claiming that all of the money was being used for construction. He was pardoned by Trump before the case could go to trial, but his co-defendants still face charges.

Officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations have been held in contempt by Congress, but criminal indictments for contempt are exceedingly rare.

Bannon, who worked at the White House at the beginning of the Trump administration and currently serves as host of the conspiracy-minded "War Room" podcast, is a private citizen who "refused to appear to give testimony as required by a subpoena," the indictment says.

Information for this article was contributed by Spencer S. Hsu, Tom Jackman, Devlin Barrett and Amy B. Wang of The Washington Post and by Michael Balsamo and Mary Clare Jalonick of The Associated Press.


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