A prominent adviser to former US president Donald Trump, has been criminally charged for defying a subpoena issued by a congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Steve Bannon has refused to co-operate with the House of Representatives select committee seeking his testimony and documents, citing Trump’s insistence – already rejected by one judge – he has a right to keep the requested material confidential under executive privilege.
Bannon, 67, was charged with one count of contempt of Congress, a misdemeanour punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of $100,000.
Trump has sought to stonewall the committee, which is scrutinising his actions relating to the deadly Capitol riot, and has urged his former associates not to co-operate.
Bannon’s indictment was announced just hours after Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows also refused to appear before the committee.
Bannon, a prominent figure in conservative media circles, served as chief strategist for Trump in the White House after playing a senior role in his 2016 election campaign.
He continued to offer Trump advice even after leaving his White House post in 2017.
It is the second time in two years Bannon has faced criminal proceedings, after being charged in 2020 with defrauding donors to a private fundraising effort to boost Trump’s US-Mexican border wall project.
Trump issued a pardon to Bannon before that case could go to trial.
Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On January 6, a mob of Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol in a failed bid to prevent formal certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.
Before the riot, Trump gave a speech to his supporters repeating his false claims the election was stolen from him, urging them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell” to “stop the steal”.
The committee has said Bannon made public statements suggesting he knew ahead of time about “extreme events” that would take place on January 6.
He said on a January 5 podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow”.
After the House voted to hold Bannon in contempt, it was up to the Justice Department, headed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, to decide whether to bring criminal charges.
Garland addressed the issue in the statement announcing the indictment, saying his department “adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law”.
Trump on October 18 sued the select committee and the National Archives, which holds material dating from his presidency, in a bid to keep hundreds of pages of White House records secret.
A judge rejected Trump’s lawsuit on Tuesday, but the former president has appealed that ruling.
The last successful prosecution for contempt of Congress was in 1974 when a judge found G. Gordon Liddy, a conspirator in the Watergate scandal that drove President Richard Nixon to resign, guilty.