He stated, "Since my very first day in office I have promised the Justice Department employees that we would together show the American people through word and deed, that the department follows the facts and that it pursues equal justice under law." "Today's charges are a reflection of the department's unwavering commitment to these principles."
Bannon and his spokesperson didn't immediately respond to our requests for comment.
The Justice Department's indictment is a remarkable example of their quick work. POLITICO was told by people familiar with the process that Congress refers to, that it can take months for DOJ lawyers make prosecution decisions. This is a risky step for the prosecutors as contempt of Congress charges are rare and almost never result in a conviction.
Bannon's case was a rare example of defiance. He refused to appear before investigators, even though he had other privileges. Investigators regard him as an important witness to the events immediately preceding the Jan. 6 attack.
This case will likely raise complicated questions regarding executive privilege, especially for advisers outside of the court. Bannon indicated through his lawyer that he would cooperate in the Jan. 6 committee's investigation if ordered by a court. However, the panel saw that offer as a stall tactic and could have delayed his potential testimony for months, if not years.
Some Democratic members of Congress were growing impatient with the Justice Department's obstruction and witnesses' obstruction. But Garland had mostly evaded questions from lawmakers regarding subpoena enforcement, insisting on the department’s independence.
"Steve Bannon’s indictment should send out a clear message that anyone who believes they can ignore or block our investigation is above the law. Chair Bennie Thompson (D.Miss.) stated that we will not hesitate using the tools available to us to obtain the information we need. Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. Friday's statement
Bannon was charged with two counts Friday. Each count can lead to up to one year imprisonment with a minimum of one month in prison. The first charge is for Bannon's refusal of to testify. The second refers to Bannon's refusal of to produce documents to respond to the subpoena.
According to a source familiar, Bannon will surrender to law enforcement on Monday. A first court appearance is scheduled for the afternoon. His case was assigned by Judge Carl Nichols (a Trump appointee).
Many key House Republicans quickly reacted to Bannon's claims, with Rep. Jim Jordan (R.Ohio), suggesting that Republicans would use the precedent set by his case to demand testimony from top Biden aides in Congress if they win the House. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is a regular guest on Bannon’s podcast, tweeted "StandWithBannon."
The committee was interested in Bannon's participation in a D.C. war room related to efforts to overturn the election. It is located at the Willard Hotel. On Monday, the panel subpoenaed several other campaign figures as well as Trump allies.
Other witnesses are also sent a strong signal by the filing of criminal charges in defiance of the committee. Mark Meadows, former Chief of Staff to the White House, refused to appear at a deposition on Friday despite being subpoenaed. This is a signal that the department could potentially bring him and others to criminal trial for stiff-arming this probe.
Meadows' testimony was crucial for their investigation, according to the panel members. He was with Trump for months as he tried to reverse the 2020 election results. On Jan. 6, Trump's violent supporters stormed Capitol, and Meadows acted as an intermediary between members of Congress who voted against the certification of election results. Meadows also participated in efforts to lean upon state and local officials during the weeks following Trump's defeat.
Directly supporting Thompson's efforts, President Joe Biden sent a White House counsel letter waiving any executive privilege claims Meadows may raise.
Meadows, however, has rejected this notion. George Terwilliger, his attorney, sharply criticised Biden's refusal to support Meadows’ claim of immunity and called him "the first President who made no effort whatsoever to prevent presidential communications from being subject to compelled testimony."
Terwilliger said Meadows was instead taking cues form Trump, who has argued he has the right of asserting privilege over records from his administration. This argument is not supported by the law and is currently being litigated between Trump and the Jan.6 committee and National Archives, which protects White House records.
This is not Bannon’s first encounter with the law. Indicted on fraud charges by a Manhattan grand jury last August for allegedly funding Trump's demand for a strengthened wall at the U.S.-Mexico frontier, Bannon was also indicted.
Bannon pleaded guilty to these charges and was currently awaiting trial. Trump granted him a pardon on January, effectively ending the case against the former White House aide. Trump did not give clemency for the three other men in that case. They are likely to face trial later in the year.