Trump ally Steve Bannon appears in court after surrendering to FBI over contempt charges
Bannon had defied subpoena from House committee investigating Jan. 6 Capitol riot
Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former president Donald Trump, appeared before a judge on Monday to face criminal contempt charges for defying a subpoena from a House committee investigating January's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Earlier in the day, Bannon surrendered to FBI agents in Washington, D.C. The 67-year-old was indicted on Friday on two counts of criminal contempt — one for refusing to appear for a congressional deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the committee's subpoena.
He did not enter a plea during the hearing, and he was released without bail by Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather. But she required him to check in weekly with court officials and ordered him to surrender his passport. He is due back in court on Thursday.
If convicted, Bannon faces a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year behind bars on each count, prosecutors said. Outside the courthouse, a large inflatable rat made to look like Trump was on the sidewalk as reporters waited for Bannon to leave.
The indictment came as a second expected witness, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, defied his own subpoena from the committee on Friday, as Trump has escalated his legal battles to withhold documents and testimony about the Jan. 6 insurrection.
If the House votes to hold Meadows in contempt, that recommendation would also be sent to the Justice Department for a possible indictment.
Officials in both Democratic and Republican administrations have been held in contempt by Congress, but criminal indictments for contempt are exceedingly rare.
The indictment against Bannon comes after a slew of Trump administration officials — including Bannon — defied requests and demands from Congress over the past five years with little consequence, including during an impeachment inquiry. Former president Barack Obama's administration also declined to charge two of its officials who defied congressional demands.
The indictment says Bannon didn't communicate with the committee in any way from the time he received the subpoena on Sept. 24 until Oct. 7, when his lawyer sent a letter, seven hours after the documents were due.
Bannon was Trump's campaign chair from August 2016 through to the candidate's election win, succeeding Paul Manafort, who served a prison sentence for an assortment of bank fraud charges.
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.
When Bannon declined to appear for his deposition in October, his lawyer said he had been directed by a lawyer for Trump citing executive privilege not to answer questions.