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Steve Bannon surrenders to face criminal contempt of Congress charges

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 11:00:50-05

Former President Donald Trump's one-time top adviser Steve Bannon turned himself in on Monday on criminal contempt charges after he refused to show up for a deposition ordered by the House January 6 committee.

Bannon was indicted last Friday by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress. He arrived at the FBI's Washington Field Office and was taken into federal custody Monday morning. He's expected to be arraigned in court later in the day.

Bannon is represented by David Schoen, an Alabama-based attorney who was a member of Mr. Trump's legal team in his second impeachment trial earlier this year. The former president was impeached by the House on a single charge of incitement of insurrection for his role in the January 6 assault on the Capitol and acquitted by the Senate.

Before walking into the FBI office, Bannon addressed his supporters on camera, saying, "We're taking down the Biden regime."

"I want you guys to stay focused," he said. "Stay on message. Remember, signal, not noise. This is all noise. That's signal."

The former White House chief strategist has been charged with one count of contempt for his refusal to appear for a deposition, and another count stemming from his refusal to produce documents to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol. If convicted, he could face a year in prison on each charge.

Bannon, who was a private citizen on January 6 and during the run-up to the attack on the Capitol, has said Mr. Trump directed him "not to produce documents or give testimony that might reveal information" that the former president's lawyers are trying "to legally protect," according to a letter sent to the committee from Bannon's attorney and obtained by CBS News.

The indictment alleged that Bannon has "not communicated with the Select Committee in any way since accepting service of the subpoena on September 24, 2021."

President Biden has rejected Mr. Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents related to the January 6 attack. Mr. Trump has sued to keep the documents private, and an appeals court last week temporarily blocked the release of Mr. Trump's White House records from the National Archives to the House committee.

"The National Archives and Records Administration and the Archivist be enjoined from releasing the records requested by the House Select Committee over which appellant asserts executive privilege, pending further order of this court," the court order read.

The court noted this is simply to allow time for legal arguments on a longer injunction to be made and the ruling "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits," meaning they are not ruling on the validity of Mr. Trump's claims. Oral arguments will be held in front of a three-judge panel later in November.

Bannon is the first person to be charged for refusing to appear before the House committee, which has subpoenaed other top Trump aides, including former senior adviser Stephen Miller and former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

Congressman Adam Schiff, who is a member of the House committee, said Sunday on "Meet the Press" that they will "move quickly" to refer contempt charges for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows for refusing to turn documents over. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson on Thursday released a letter to Meadows that accused him of resisting the panel's demands for documents and testimony and rejecting any grounds for non-compliance.

The House January 6 select committee was created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier this year to investigate the attack, when thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol as Congress counted the electoral votes, a largely ceremonial final step affirming Mr. Biden's victory. Lawmakers were sent fleeing amid the riot, which led to the deaths of five people and the arrests of hundreds more. Mr. Trump, who encouraged his supporters to "walk over" to the Capitol during the Stop the Steal rally, was impeached by the House one week later for inciting the riot, but was later acquitted by the Senate.

The full House of Representatives voted in October to hold Bannon in contempt after he refused to appear for a deposition and they referred the matter to the Justice Department.