WASHINGTON (AP) – Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was indicted Friday on two counts of contempt of Congress after challenging a congressional agenda from a House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol uprising.
The Justice Department said that 67-year-old Bannon was charged on one count of refusing to appear to testify and on another count of refusing to provide documents in response to a committee’s summons. It was not immediately clear when he should appear before the court.
The charge was brought in connection with the fact that the second witness, the former head of the White House administration, Mark Meadows, on Friday refused a similar subpoena. The chairman of the commission, Mississippi State Representative Benny Thompson, said he would be recommending charges of contempt for Meadows next week.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Bannon’s indictment reflects the Justice Department’s “strong commitment” to ensuring that the department upholds the rule of law. Each charge carries a minimum of 30 days in prison and up to a year in prison.
Bannon’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a message requesting comment.
This isn’t the first time Bannon has faced legal danger. In August last year, he was removed from a luxury yacht and arrested on charges that he and three accomplices robbed donors trying to finance the construction of the southern border wall. Trump later pardoned Bannon in the final hours of his presidency.
Meadows has been in talks with the committee since his subpoena was issued in September, but his lawyer said Friday that Meadows is having a “sharp legal dispute” with the commission as Trump has demanded a privilege from the executive to testify.
Thompson threatened charges of contempt for Meadows in a letter to attorney George Terwiliger on Thursday, which said that if he did not appear to answer committee questions on Friday, it would be considered “willful defiance.” The committee will first have to vote on the contempt recommendation, and then the entire chamber will vote to send it to the Justice Department.
Meadows’s refusal to comply comes amid escalating legal battles between the committee and Trump, as the former president has claimed his rights to documents and interviews that lawmakers demand.
The White House said in a letter Thursday that President Joe Biden would waive any privilege that would prevent Meadows from working with the committee, prompting his lawyer to say that Meadows would not comply.
“Legal disputes are properly resolved in the courts,” said attorney George Terwilliger. “It would be irresponsible of Mr. Meadows to resolve this dispute prematurely by voluntarily surrendering the privileges that underlie these legal issues.”
As the incumbent president, Biden has so far abandoned most of Trump’s claims of privilege over documents. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan upheld Biden’s position, noting in one ruling this week that “presidents are not kings, and the plaintiff is not the president.”
The commission’s consideration and attempts to gather information were delayed as Trump appealed Chutkan’s decisions. On Thursday, a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the release of some of the White House tapes the commission is demanding, giving that court time to consider Trump’s arguments.
Nonetheless, the House commission is continuing its work, and lawmakers have already interviewed more than 150 witnesses in an attempt to compile the most complete account of how a brutal Trump crowd broke into the Capitol and temporarily suspended Biden’s certification. victory.
The committee has summoned nearly three dozen people to court, including former White House officials, Trump allies who devised a strategy on how to reverse his defeat, and the people who staged a giant National Mall rally on the morning of January 6. While some, such as Meadows and Bannon, were outraged, others spoke to the commission and provided documents.
Meadows, a former GOP congressman from North Carolina, is a key witness to the group. He was Trump’s top aide in the period between Trump’s November election defeat and the uprising, and was one of several people who pressured government officials to try to reverse the results. He was also close to Trump for most of the time and could provide information on what the former president said and did during the attack.
“You were the chief of staff of the presidential administration and you have important information on many elements of our investigation,” Thompson wrote in a letter accompanying the September 23 subpoena in Meadows. “It looks like you were with or around President Trump on January 6, communicating with the President and others on January 6 about the events in the Capitol, and witnessing the activity that day.”
The Court of Appeals will hear arguments on November 30 in Trump’s separate case against the committee and the National Archives – an attempt to hide documents from the commission. The arguments will take place before three judges appointed by Democratic presidents: Patricia Millett and Robert Wilkins, appointed by former President Barack Obama, and Ketangee Brown Jackson, Biden’s appointee.
Given the scale of the case, any party that loses in a district court will likely end up going to the US Supreme Court.
Associated Press contributors Eric Tucker, Nomaan Merchant, Zeke Miller, and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.