Former Trump advisor and campaign manager Steve Bannon moved to plead not guilty to criminal contempt of Congress charges after he refused to comply with a subpoena.
Earlier this week, Bannon was charged in federal court with two misdemeanor contempt charges after he wouldn’t comply with demands from the House’s Jan. 6 panel to produce documents and submit to a deposition. The charges each carry a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of 1 year in jail and fines of $100 to $1,000, according to the Department of Justice.
Bannon surrendered to federal agents on Monday and was released without bail, subject to supervision rules including handing his passport over.
“This is going to be a misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden,” Bannon told onlookers outside the building on Monday.
“Not just Trump people and not just conservatives—every progressive, every liberal in this country that likes freedom of speech and liberty should be fighting for this case. That’s why I’m here today: for everybody. I’m never going to back down,” he said.
Bannon is scheduled to be arraigned in court on Thursday, but he agreed to waive his right to a formal reading of the indictment, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.
It came after the House of Representatives, in a partisan vote, decided to hold Bannon in contempt. Reps. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) Fred Upton (R-Mich.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.), Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) joined Democrats in voting to hold him in contempt.
However, the Department of Justice has not been able to secure a contempt of Congress conviction in nearly 50 years, although it’s the first time the agency pursued such charges since 1983. Former Nixon adviser G. Gordon Libby was the last person to be convicted of the charge in 1974.
The Jan. 6 panel, headed by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), has subsequently issued subpoenas for documents and testimony to a number of Trump-era officials and advisors. Thompson told reporters that he would send a final warning to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that he could face referral to the Department of Justice if he doesn’t respond.
Both Bannon and Meadows have argued that former President Donald Trump’s invocation of executive privileges shields both of them from cooperating with the committee.
According to the Justice Department’s indictment, however, it stipulated that Bannon is a private citizen who “refused to appear to give testimony as required by a subpoena.”
In an opinion article published in The Washington Post over the weekend, Meadows lawyer George J. Terwilliger III explained that he was “surprised and disappointed” that the federal government rejected the claims of executive privilege.
“Under Supreme Court precedent, President Donald Trump also has a voice to be heard on claims of executive privilege arising from his tenure, and he has instructed Meadows to maintain the privilege,” he wrote. “My client thus finds himself caught between two rocks (Congress and the Biden administration) and a hard place (instructions from the president he served).”
Bannon’s attorneys, David I. Schoen and Matthew Evan Corcoran, haven’t returned requests for comment.