Steve Bannon Pleads Not Guilty to Contempt of Congress Charges

Steve Bannon Pleads Not Guilty to Contempt of Congress Charges
Ex-White House adviser Steve Bannon arrives to turn himself in at the FBI Washington Field Office on Nov. 15, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Former Trump adviser and campaign manager Steve Bannon has pleaded not guilty to criminal contempt of Congress charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol.

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 to submit to a deposition. The charges each carry a minimum of 30 days to a maximum of one year in jail and fines of $100 to $1,000, according to the Department of Justice.

Bannon surrendered to federal agents on Nov. 15 and was released without bail, subject to supervision rules, including turning his passport over to authorities.

"This is going to be a misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden," Bannon told onlookers outside of the building on Nov. 15. “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.”

Bannon was scheduled to be arraigned in court on Nov. 18, but he agreed to waive his right to a formal reading of the indictment, according to court documents filed on Nov. 17.

Bannon's plea comes after the House of Representatives, in a partisan vote, decided to hold Bannon in contempt. GOP 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.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) hasn't been able to secure a contempt of Congress conviction in nearly 50 years; it's the first time that the department has pursued such charges since 1983. Former President Richard Nixon adviser G. Gordon Liddy 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 advisers. 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 DOJ if he doesn't respond.

Both Bannon and Meadows have argued that former President Donald Trump's invocation of executive privilege shields both of them from cooperating with the committee. However, according to the indictment, 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 attorney, George J. Terwilliger III, wrote that he was “surprised and disappointed” that the federal government has 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, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.