Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald, surrendered to the FBI Monday morning following his indictment on contempt of Congress charges.
Bannon was indicted over his refusal to appear for a deposition or provide documents to the House select committee investigating Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election results, and the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that those efforts inspired. News reports suggest that Bannon was in touch with Trump in the crucial days before Jan. 6 — the day Congress is required to certify the presidential election results — and joined other key Trump advisers planning strategy on Jan. 5.
The case is crucial for the Jan. 6 select committee — and congressional power in general. Contempt of Congress cases have rarely succeeded in history, however few targets have ever defied a congressional subpoena as brazenly as Bannon. He refused to engage with the Jan. 6 committee until after his deadline to appear, and he leaned on a theory of “absolute immunity” that has no legal backing and has only ever been contemplated for a president’s closest official advisers.
But Jan. 6 investigators are hopeful that the real effect of Bannon’s indictment is on other potential witnesses — like former Trump adviser Michael Flynn — who might rethink outright defiance rather than risk prosecution.
Bannon remained defiant as he surrendered Monday morning at the FBI’s field office in Washington, D.C. He arranged to have his surrender live-streamed on GETTR, a web platform launched by members of the former president’s inner circle in the wake of Trump’s removal and ban from Twitter. He also plugged his “War Room” podcast lineup for later in the day.
“We’re taking down the Biden regime … Remember, signal not noise,” Bannon told his supporters. “This is all noise. That’s signal.”
Bannon also insisted that support for his cause is growing among minorities, although what prompted his comments on that point was unclear.
“I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball on what we do every day,” the former White House adviser said. “We’ve got the Hispanics coming on our side … African Americans coming on our side.”
After going through the booking process, Bannon is slated to make his first appearance in the case Monday afternoon before Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather at the federal courthouse a few blocks south of the FBI office. Bannon’s case, however, has been assigned to Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee. Nichols is expected to rule on any legal challenges to the charges and to preside over any trial on the indictment.
Bannon faces two misdemeanor contempt of Congress charges: one for refusing to testify and another for refusing to turn over subpoenaed documents. He faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a minimum penalty of one month in jail on each charge, if convicted.
Bannon appeared to shift his defense counsel in the wake of Friday’s indictment. He had been represented by Robert Costello, a former senior federal prosecutor in New York who is also representing Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Costello did not file a formal appearance in advance of Bannon’s expected court appearance Monday. Instead, Atlanta attorney David Schoen and Baltimore lawyer Evan Corcoran informed the court that they will represent Bannon.
Schoen received lukewarm reviews for his work representing Trump at his impeachment trial in February related to his role in allegedly fomenting the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol.
Corcoran is a former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, which is overseeing Bannon’s prosecution. He is also defending a former U.S. Capitol Police Officer accused of obstruction of justice in the aftermath of Jan. 6, Michael Riley.
Neither Schoen nor Corcoran is attached to a major law firm. Many such firms have been reluctant to take on clients seen as aiding or encouraging the Capitol riot.