Former Donald Trump adviser faces jail over Jan 6 insurrection

Steve Bannon, a one-time senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, was on Friday charged with contempt of US congress for defying a subpoena issued to him by a select committee of the House of Representatives that is investigating the January 6 insurrection.

Bannon will turn himself in to authorities on Monday. If convicted on the two counts on which he was indicted by a grand jury - one for refusal to appear before the committee and the other for refusing to turn over documents - he faces up to two years in prison and $2,000 in fine.

The House committee had summoned him on September 23 but Bannon refused claiming protection of Trump’s presidential executive privilege, which immunises the American president (and former presidents) and his aides from legal challenges for actions taken while in office.

The indictment was brought by the US attorney for Washington DC (District of Columbia) after it was cleared by attorney general Merrick Garland in a much anticipated move that presages similar outcomes for many other members of the Trump orbit who have either already claimed executive privilege to defy the committee’s subpoena - such as former chief of staff Mark Meadows - or plan to.

“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,” Garland said, adding, “Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.”

The committee had summoned Steve Bannon saying it had reason to believe he had information pertaining to the January 6 insurrection. “You have been identified as present at the Willard Hotel (which is just a block from the White House and has been a popular hotel for Indian prime ministers and officials on official visit to DC) on January 5, 2021, during an effort to persuade members of congress to block the certification of the election the next day, and in relation to other activities on January 6.... Moreover, you are quoted as stating, on January 5,2021, that ‘(a)ll hell is going to break loose tomorrow’,” the subpoena said.

A mob of hundreds of Donald Trump supporters had stormed a joint session of US congress on January 6 to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. The insurrection - as the incident has been called officially - was incited by Trump’s false claims of election fraud behind his defeat in the November polls.

The committee has issued subpoenas to at least 20 aides of the former president, who include Meadows and former senior adviser Stephen Miller and former White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany, who were working with President Trump at the time in the White House.

Unlike them, however, Steve Bannon was not working in the White House then. Trump had fired him way back in 2017, but kept him on his speed dial as an adviser. Bannon played a big role in amplifying Trump’s lies about election fraud, as did the former president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others.

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