Steve Bannon, one of former President Donald Trump’s closest allies, could face jail time for not cooperating with the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. The House voted to hold the former White House Chief Strategist in criminal contempt of Congress on Thursday after he refused to testify before the committee. Bannon claimed that he couldn’t respond to a subpoena by the panel due to executive privilege.
The committee responded to Bannon’s defiance with a 26-page report that laid out their case for holding him in criminal contempt. “There is no reasonable argument that Mr. Bannon’s communications with the President regarding January 6th are the type of matters on which privilege can be asserted,” the committee wrote in the report on Monday. “Also, the Select Committee is confident that no executive privilege assertion would bar Mr. Bannon’s testimony regarding his communications directly with the President regarding January 6th—because the privilege is qualified and could be overcome by an appropriate showing of need.”
Now, the criminal referral will go to Attorney General Merrick Garland, who will decide whether it will go to the grand jury or not. Ken White, the California attorney and legal commentator known for the Twitter account Popehat, says. “The U.S. attorney’s office historically doesn’t automatically do that, even though the statute says that they are supposed to consider it.” The Attorney General would present it to the grand jury for indictment if he thinks it’s appropriate, he added.
If Bannon gets indicted for contempt of Congress, he could face up to a year in jail and a maximum fine of up to $100,000. However, it would be a long time before Bannon gets to the point where he might be arrested, maybe even up to a year. “Most of the time, that sort of thing results in a deal or some sort of accommodation,” White said. “He may decide to go in and voluntarily testify, and then they may drop the charges.”
It may seem a bit unnecessary for Congress to put a lot of focus on getting Bannon indicted for criminal contempt, but White considers this move to be a “forceful” one after the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence was criticized for not “vigorously enforcing” subpoenas during Trump’s impeachment case. “It’s not really a practical way to get him to testify before this committee because by the time the prosecution’s over and he gets sentenced, the committee’s probably already done,” White added. “I think it’s more to encourage other people and to show that if they don’t comply, they will try to have you prosecuted.”
The real question is where would be held if he was indicted. Since contempt of Congress is a federal misdemeanor being prosecuted in DC, White suggested that Bannon would be held in the DC Jail for lockup. The jail holds inmates who either have been sentenced for a misdemeanor, or are awaiting trial. However, depending on space and other factors, the Bureau of Prisons could decide to send him to another minimum security lockup outside of the District.