Trump’s former chief strategist is facing real prison time for being a real asshole.
Steve Bannon, the chief strategist for the Trump administration and a longtime figurehead for the global ultra-nationalist movement, was indicted Friday, in an answer to the previously open-ended question of whether Congress would actually do something about the various members of former President Donald Trump’s inner circle who flagrantly refused to comply with subpoenas related to the investigation of the January 6 insurrection.
The dual indictments, handed down from a federal grand jury and filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, come almost one month after Bannon rejected a subpoena to appear before the bipartisan congressional committee. As a result, the full House voted on Oct. 21 to hold him in contempt. The issue was then sent to the Justice Department, where it was unclear whether Attorney General Merrick Garland would actually pursue criminal action. That uncertainty ended Friday, with the Justice Department’s announcement that Bannon had been “charged with one contempt count involving his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents.”
“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,” Garland said in a statement accompanying the indictment. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
According to the Justice Department, Bannon could face up to a year in prison for each charge, plus fines worth anywhere from $100 to $1,000.
Even before Bannon’s initially scheduled appearance before the House, Trump had reportedly instructed a number of his former staffers not to comply with the Jan. 6 committee by dint of his (now non-existent) executive privilege. Those figures included Bannon, as well as former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and longtime social media guru Dan Scavino. Just hours before Bannon’s indictment was handed down Friday, Meadows pointedly failed to show up for his scheduled deposition before the Jan. 6 committee, with his attorney releasing a statement claiming “it would be irresponsible for Mr. Meadows to prematurely resolve [the question of whether he can be compelled to speak to the committee] by voluntarily waiving privileges that are at the heart of those legal issues.”
Trump’s attempts to invoke executive privilege to avoid the committee’s probing have been blocked before. This week, a federal judge refused a motion from the former president, in which he attempted to assert the right to keep a tranche of documents secret within the National Archives, despite the committee’s request to review the papers. That effort is now under appeal, although as Judge Tanya Chutkan wrote in her initial ruling on the matter, “the Supreme Court has already made clear that in such circumstances, the incumbent’s view is accorded greater weight [than that of a former president].” And President Biden has said the congressional panel should have access to the records.
Before the full House vote to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress last month, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger — one of just a handful of Republicans who backed the measure — made clear he had no intention to provide political cover for a member of his own party.
“Steve Bannon went out of his way to earn this resolution before us,” Kinzinger told his colleagues. “Now we must approve it.”
According to the DOJ, the arraignment date has not yet been set for Bannon’s trial.