Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former top political adviser, has been charged with failing to cooperate with a committee investigating the riot at the US Capitol. Reports said he could surrender himself as early as next week.
In a development that sent shockwaves through the nation’s capital, and no doubt jolted those other former Trump administration officials considering not complying with the committee’s demands, a federal grand jury returned two criminal charges of contempt of Congress against the 67-year-old Mr Bannon.
“On October 7 2021, by the 10.00 am deadline, Bannon did not appear before the Select Committee, did not produce documents and communications, did not provide a log of withheld records, did not request an extension of time, and did not certify that he had conducted a diligent search for responsive records,” said a nine-page document released by the Department of Justice on Friday.
“In fact, Bannon had not communicated with the Select Committee in any way since accepting service of the subpoena on September 24,2021.”
In a statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland, said he had vowed that under his leadership the department “would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law, and pursues equal justice under the law”.
He added: “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”
Mr Bannon, considered by many to be a brash, right-wing political street fighter, served just seven months in the administration of Mr Trump.
Yet, he has remained an important figure in the broader conservative political sphere, not least because of his continued links to the former president.
The House Committee on the January 6 Attack had wanted to interview Mr Bannon about several things, including his presence at a meeting at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC, the day before hundreds of supporters of Mr Trump stormed the US Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win.
Democrats believe the meeting at the Willard played a crucial role in determining how the events of the following day would play out, a day that would include Mr Trump delivering a fiery speech in which he said: “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Also present at the meeting were Mr Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik and John Eastman, the scholar who had, the day before, outlined to Mr Trump and his deputy Mike Pence, scenarios for denying Mr Biden’s victory.
In his podcast that day, Mr Bannon told listeners: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
The criminal charges for Mr Bannon followed a vote last month by the House of Representatives to hold him in contempt of Congress for allegedly stonewalling the investigation and failing to respond to its demands he appear and testify.
The committee has issued subpoenas for 17 former member of the Trump administration, among them former chief of staff Mark Meadows, strategist and deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, adviser Stephen Miller and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Mr Trump has urged all of them not to cooperate. Mr Meadows has said he will only do so if he gets a court order.
As it was, his deadline to appear ended at 10am on Friday, and the former Republican congressman, who served as Mr Trump’s final chief of staff, did not appear.
In a statement issued by the committee’s chair, and senior Republican member Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney, the panel condemned Mr Meadows failure to appear.
“Mr Meadows’s actions today – choosing to defy the law – will force the Select Committee to consider pursuing contempt or other proceedings to enforce the subpoena,” it said.
It added: “Mr Meadows has failed to answer even the most basic questions, including whether he was using a private cell phone to communicate on January 6th, and where his text messages from that day are.”
“It’s important to note that there’s nothing extraordinary about the Select Committee seeking the cooperation of a former senior administration official.
Five people lost their lives as a result of the rioting at the US and scores of supporters of the former president have been charged, as they backed his call to “stop the steal”, believing his false claim that the 2020 election had been rigged.
Mr Trump was impeached for a second time by the House for the speech he gave and his alleged failure to stop the violence.
Furthermore, the events of January 6, and whether or not the election was stolen from Mr Trump, remain to grip the Republican Party as it prepares for the 2022 midterm election and the presidential race of 2024.
Mr Trump, who continues to be the most popular candidate of as many as 85 per cent of Republicans, continues to insist, wrongly, that the election was stolen.
He has also threatened to end the political careers who reject his views, among them Ms Cheney, who was of a handful of Republicans who voted too impeach Mr Trump, and lost her job as the third-ranking GOP official in the House as a result.
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