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Bannon hit with contempt indictment after snubbing Jan. 6 committee

The former Trump White House strategist now faces criminal charges over his refusal to provide the House committee with testimony and documents regarding the insurrection that followed Joe Biden's 2020 election win.

WASHINGTON (CN) — Federal prosecutors indicted former White House strategist Stephen Bannon on two counts Friday because he refused to comply with a subpoena connected to the mob of President Donald Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Bannon is charged with contempt of Congress for his refusal to appear for a deposition before the House committee investigating the riot and for refusing to give the committee documents related to the insurrection.

The riot interrupted a ceremony in which both chambers of Congress certified the results of the 2020 election. Trump, who insisted for weeks without evidence, that the election had been stolen from him organized a rally in the lead-up to the ceremony called Stop the Steal. In their subpoena calling for more information, House lawmakers pointed to a warning that Bannon made on Jan. 5, telling listeners of his podcast that “Hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The committee also says Bannon had conversations with members of Congress leading up to the Jan. 6 attack in which he urged them to block the certification of the election.

The Justice Department is now proceeding with criminal charges after the House found Bannon in contempt of Congress last month for his refusal to help the committee dig deeper into the Trump administration's actions on Jan. 6.

Each count carries sanctions 30 days to a year in jail as well as up to $1,000 in fines. An arraignment date has not been set yet.

The charges against Bannon come the same day as former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ defiance of a subpoena from the committee.

Meadows and Bannon both claim that executive privilege exempts them from detailing their whereabouts and communications. 

While President Biden has waived any executive privilege that would prevent former staffers from testifying, former Trump officials continue to take their lead from Trump, who has stalled the turnover of documents to the committee in recent days.

federal judge rejected a lawsuit by Trump earlier this week  that tried to block the National Archives from turning over documents to the committee.

"His position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power 'exists in perpetuity,’” U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutakn wrote in her ruling. "But presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.”

Trump is appealing that order, however, and the D.C. Circuit temporarily halted the turnover of documents pending further proceedings.

While the refusals by Meadows and Bannon and repeated legal challenges by Trump have stonewalled some of the committee’s investigation, the panel has interviewed more than 150 witnesses and subpoenaed former White House aides and rally organizers, with some complying with committee requests as the panel continues to dig into the events of Jan. 6.

“Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we 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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Friday. “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

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