After surrendering to the FBI on Monday morning, former President Donald Trump’s ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon appeared for a brief federal court appearance, where a judge released him pending trial for contempt of Congress.
The government did not oppose releasing Bannon, who faces two misdemeanor counts related to the defiance of a subpoena from the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. The indictment levels one charge for failing to provide documents and another for refusing to sit for a deposition.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather swore Bannon to standard terms of release, forcing him to relinquish his passport, notify pre-trial services of any plans for domestic travel and obtain court approval for any travel outside the continental United States.
Represented by Trump’s impeachment lawyer David Schoen, Bannon’s anticipated arraignment on Monday was postponed until Nov. 18, before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee who has been assigned the criminal case.
Surrounded by press and protesters as he approached FBI headquarters on Monday morning, Bannon streamed himself surrendering to authorities live on Gettr, the pro-Trump social media platform.
The Wall Street Journal quoted Bannon telling his followers: “We’re taking down the Biden regime,” as a protester standing in the background held up a placard branding the ex-Trump official a “Coup Plotter.”
According to Reuters, Bannon also took the occasion to plug the upcoming guests on his show later on Monday.
The Jan. 6 Committee quoted Bannon’s comments on his podcast “War Room” to argue that he seemed to have advanced knowledge of the attack.
“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon declared on Jan. 5.
The Committee’s report referring Bannon for contempt of Congress quoted that show at length.
“It’s not going to happen like you think it’s going to happen,” Bannon said. “OK, it’s going to be quite extraordinarily different. All I can say is, strap in. […] You made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day. So strap in. Let’s get ready.”
In addition to those comments, the committee’s chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) sought information about another so-called “war room” associated with Bannon—a “command center” that Bannon and others attended inside the Willard Hotel, a short walk away from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. The committee has issued other subpoenas about meetings at the hotel in the days surrounding Jan. 6.
After the House cast a vote in favor of Bannon’s contempt referral, the matter went before the Department of Justice.
The two-count indictment the Justice Department returned weeks later, the first case of its kind in decades, is said to be the first that followed an assertion of executive privilege.
Previously charged with defrauding donors to We Build the Wall—a crowdfunded effort to erect a U.S.-Mexico barrier—Bannon received an eleventh-hour pardon from Trump. Bannon’s accused co-conspirators did not. If convicted on the latest charges, Bannon can face a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail on each count. Each count also carries a fine up to $100,000.
Update—Nov. 15 at 3:35 p.m.: Prosecutors have clarified the possible fine Bannon faces, if convicted. Their original press release stated that it was up to a $1,000 fine per count. It is actually a $100,000 fine per count.
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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