The committee issued a subpoena to Bannon saying it wanted to question him about activities at the Willard Hotel the night before the riot, when supporters of President Donald Trump sought to persuade Republican lawmakers to overturn the 2020 election results. The committee said Bannon spoke with Trump by telephone that morning and evening, the last time after Bannon Predicted “hell is going to break loose” on Jan. 6. The committee’s report recommending that he be found in Contempt said the comments indicated he “had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day.”
In declining to testify and turn over records, Bannon claimed executive privilege, and his lawyer said he was contacted by Trump lawyer Justin Clark and instructed not to respond.
However, arguments over executive privilege are not expected to be the focus of the trial. During a pretrial hearing this month, US District Judge Carl J. Nichols rejected several of Bannon’s defenses, including the executive Privilege claim, and narrowed Bannon’s defenses at trial mainly to whether he understood the deadlines for answering lawmakers’ demands.
Nichols agreed with prosecutors’ argument that under binding legal precedent, Bannon’s reasons for not complying with the House panel subpoenas were irrelevant if he willfully disregarded them. The judge also disputed that former president Trump asserted executive privilege for Bannon, or that it would cover the conversations in question because the latter left the White House in 2017 and was a private citizen at the time.
Facing trial, Bannon vows to go ‘medieval,’ but judge says meh
A former media executive who boasted of creating a “platform for the alt-right,” Bannon has championed a “populist-nationalist” movement since chairing Trump’s campaign for part of 2016. While he has denied responsibility for the Jan. 6 riots by Trump supporters, he considered himself an ideological architect of the efforts to overturn the election and the Jan. 6 Trump rally. His trial comes during amid high interest in hearings that the Jan. 6 committees have been held to investigate the 2021 breach of the Capitol.
The misdemeanor Contempt charges are each punishable by at least 30 days or up to one year in Prison upon conviction. However, the three offenders who have pleaded guilty to the rarely charged crime of withholding information from Congress dating to the 1990s have received probation in plea deals with US prosecutors.
This story will be updated. Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.