Steve Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury with two counts of contempt of Congress. The charges stem from Bannon’s failure last month to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the events of Jan. 6.
“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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
The charges filed Friday serve as a warning to other Trump World figures who have or who will receive subpoenas from the committee, as well as an affirmation that the committee’s investigation is not a frivolous exercise. Its members are out to get answers, and there will be real consequences for anyone who stands in their way.
The committee voted to hold Bannon in contempt days after he notified it he would not be complying with his subpoena, which was issued in late September, citing executive privilege. The House of Representatives voted to approve the measure later the same week, sending the matter to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department acted on Friday, slapping him with one charge for failing to appear before the committee, and another for failing to produce documents requested by the committee. Each count carries with it a minimum sentence of 30 days, and a maximum of one year. As CNN legal analyst Elie Honig pointed out on Friday, this is the first time the Justice Department has charged anyone with criminal contempt since 1983.
Bannon’s indictment was crucial if the committee expects any of the other Trump allies they have subpoenaed to cooperate. This week alone, the committee has subpoenaed Michael Flynn, Stephen Miller, John Eastman, Kayleigh McEnany, Jason Miller, and others who investigators believe may have knowledge of the former president’s plans to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Mark Meadows, the North Carolina congressman-turned-Trump chief of staff, failed to appear for a deposition before the committee on Friday. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) indicated Thursday night that he’s prepared to take a similar course of action as he did with Bannon. “Such willful noncompliance with the subpoena would force the Select Committee to consider invoking the contempt of Congress procedures … which could result in a referral from the House of Representatives to the Department of Justice for criminal charges,” he wrote in a statement.
Meadows, like Bannon, is citing executive privilege in his refusal to comply with the committee. Trump is also claiming executive privilege in his effort to keep White House documents and logs out of the committee’s hands. A federal judge ruled earlier this week that the claim were not valid. The National Archives has said it intends to turn over the material to the committee Friday afternoon.