Investigative jury indicts former Trump adviser Steve Bannon

(CNN) – A federal investigative jury has indicted former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon for contempt of Congress, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has been under enormous political pressure to impeach Bannon since the House referred Trump’s ally to the Justice Department for contempt on October 21.

Without an indictment, critics have said, there are questions about the power of the commission investigating the January 6 assault to force former White House and Trump administration officials to cooperate. On Friday, former White House Secretary General Mark Meadows did not appear for a deposition, sources familiar with the investigation told CNN, leading to a possible confrontation that could lead the panel to initiate criminal referral proceedings against him. .

And last week, former Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who had been subpoenaed, appeared before the commission for more than an hour but declined to answer questions.

The commission issued a subpoena to obtain documents and Bannon’s testimony in October.

List of Trump advisers summoned to testify rises 2:26

Steve Bannon refused to appear before the commission investigating robbery of the Capitol

Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, told the commission that Trump’s former adviser would not cooperate with the investigation because Trump had ordered him not to do so. Noting Trump’s claims that the documents and testimony being sought were potentially protected by executive privilege, Bannon’s attorney told the commission that “executive privileges belong to President Trump” and “we must accept his direction and honor his invocation. of executive privilege “.

President Joe Biden’s White House has declined to assert executive privilege regarding witnesses and documents related to January 6, citing the extraordinary nature of the attack on Capitol Hill. The White House counsel’s office has written to Bannon’s attorney to say that they will not support his refusal to testify.

During the search for him to cooperate, the commission has pointed to reports that Bannon spoke to Trump prior to the Capitol riots, who was present in the so-called “war room” of Trump’s allies at the Willard Hotel in Washington while it was happening. the assault and that the day before he predicted in his podcast that the next day “hell” was going to be “unleashed”.

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“In summary, Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the House committee said. in the report in which he filed a resolution against Bannon.

Some legal experts have also expressed skepticism about Bannon’s decision not to comply with the subpoena, given that the question of whether Trump as former president can enforce the privilege is not resolved, and that Bannon was not working for the Government in the period. which is under review by the commission.

Any criminal case against Bannon could take years to unfold in court, and it is unclear whether an indictment would advance. Historically, contempt of Congress cases have been thwarted by juries sympathetic to the defendants and by appellate rulings. Bannon’s case is likely to raise new legal questions about executive privilege and the House of Representatives’ ability to enforce its investigative subpoenas when seeking information about the executive branch.

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