Steve Bannon, a onetime White House strategist and staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, is headed to trial on two criminal counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas issued by the House select Committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot.
The trial – set to begin Monday with jury selection – comes amid a series of live hearings by the panel that have produced jaw-dropping allegations about the 45th president and those around him leading up to last year’s violence.
Initially, Bannon refused to testify before the committee or provide any requested documents, claiming he was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege. The panel rejected the claim, citing Bannon’s status as a private citizen at the time of the riot after being fired from his White House role in August 2017.
Despite defending his decision for months, Bannon reversed course earlier this month, telling the committee he would be willing to testify after all.
While Bannon claimed Trump was going to waive the executive privilege claim, federal prosecutors insisted that Trump had never invoked the privilege to prevent Bannon from testifying in the first place.
Prosecutors also said that Bannon’s legal team, “misrepresented to the Committee what the former President’s counsel had told the Defendant’s [Bannon’s] attorney; and that the former President’s counsel made clear to the Defendant’s attorney that the letter provided no basis for total noncompliance.”
Also last week, US District Judge Carl Nichols declined to delay the start of the trial and shot down several defense strategies proposed by Bannon’s legal team.
Nichols blocked the defense from calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and members of the Jan 6. committee to the stand, barred them from arguing that the select committee violated House rules by calling on Bannon to testify, and from arguing that the former Breitbart executive chairman ignored the subpoena on the advice of his counsel or at Trump’s direction.
Prospective jurors are expected to be asked if they have watched any of the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings this summer and whether they would have any difficulty putting aside opinions they might have about the people involved, according to CBS News.
Bannon faces a minimum of 60 days in prison if convicted on both counts and could be sentenced to up to two years behind bars and fined up to $2,000.
His trial is seen as a major test on the power of Congress to punish witnesses who refuse to comply with House subpoenas.
Another former Trump White House aide, trade adviser Peter Navarro was indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress in June. Last week, a spokesperson for Navarro announced he had turned down a plea offer that would have required him to plead guilty.
The Justice Department has declined to pursue contempt charges against two other Trump aides, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former deputy chief of staff for communications Dan Scavino, who were part of the administration at the time of the riot.
Ahead of Bannon’s trial, the committee has noted its interest in information he might have regarding conversations with Trump leading up to Jan. 6.
During last week’s hearing, the committee revealed White House records that showed the two spoke twice on Jan. 5, 2021. The first call came just before Bannon made a prediction on his podcast that the “all hell is going to break loose” the following day.