Steve Bannon turns himself in on contempt of Congress charges.
WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon, who served as a senior aide to President Donald J. Trump, surrendered to authorities and appeared in federal court on Monday, three days after he was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide information to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Mr. Bannon’s formal booking and first court appearance in the case — and his promise to fight back aggressively against what he characterized as a political prosecution — marked an escalation in the clash between Mr. Trump’s allies and the committee, which has issued scores of subpoenas seeking testimony and documents that could help it assemble a definitive account of the attack and what led to it.
The charges against Mr. Bannon served as a warning to those who choose to defy the committee’s requests for information. But Mr. Bannon also showed that he intends to use the attention on the criminal case to push his own views to a broad audience.
Before entering the F.B.I.’s Washington field office, where he surrendered at around 9:30 a.m., and after leaving court later that afternoon, Mr. Bannon made statements that falsely implied that Mr. Trump had won the 2020 election. He told his supporters to remain focused on taking on “the illegitimate Biden regime.”
“This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell,” Mr. Bannon said after he emerged from his initial court appearance before a federal magistrate, Judge Robin M. Meriweather. Trailed by a video crew promoting his own media operation, and swarmed by reporters and photographers, he said he intended to use the legal process to attack Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden.
“We’re going to go on the offense on this,” he told reporters outside the courthouse, saying he was fighting for freedom of speech and liberty and assailing the prosecution as partisan.
“Every progressive, every liberal in this country that likes freedom of speech and liberty, OK, should be fighting for this case,” he said, even though the charges against him are not related to the First Amendment.
Mr. Bannon, 67, declined last month to comply with subpoenas from the House select committee seeking testimony and documents from him. The House then voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
Mr. Trump has directed his former aides and advisers to invoke immunity and refrain from turning over documents that might be protected under executive privilege.
After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and the Justice Department announced on Friday that a federal grand jury had indicted him on those charges.
One contempt count is related to Mr. Bannon’s refusal to appear for a deposition, and the other is for his refusal to produce documents for the committee. Each count carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, and a fine of between $100 and $100,000.
Mr. Bannon did not enter a plea when he made his initial appearance before Judge Meriweather on Monday. He was released on personal recognizance pending his next hearing on Thursday before Judge Carl J. Nichols of the Federal District Court in Washington.
The committee issued subpoenas in September to Mr. Bannon and several others who had ties to the Trump White House, and it has since issued scores of subpoenas to others with connections to the former president.
Understand the Claim of Executive Privilege in the Jan. 6. Inquiry
A key issue yet untested. Donald Trump’s power as former president to keep information from his White House secret has become a central issue in the House’s investigation of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Amid an attempt by Mr. Trump to keep personal records secret and the indictment of Stephen K. Bannon for contempt of Congress, here’s a breakdown of executive privilege:
What is executive privilege? It is a power claimed by presidents under the Constitution to prevent the other two branches of government from gaining access to certain internal executive branch information, especially confidential communications involving the president or among his top aides.
What is Trump’s claim? Former President Trump has filed a lawsuit seeking to block the disclosure of White House files related to his actions and communications surrounding the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. He argues that these matters must remain a secret as a matter of executive privilege.
Is Trump’s privilege claim valid? The constitutional line between a president’s secrecy powers and Congress’s investigative authority is hazy. Though a judge rejected Mr. Trump’s bid to keep his papers secret, it is likely that the case will ultimately be resolved by the Supreme Court.
Is executive privilege an absolute power? No. Even a legitimate claim of executive privilege may not always prevail in court. During the Watergate scandal in 1974, the Supreme Court upheld an order requiring President Richard M. Nixon to turn over his Oval Office tapes.
May ex-presidents invoke executive privilege? Yes, but courts may view their claims with less deference than those of current presidents. In 1977, the Supreme Court said Nixon could make a claim of executive privilege even though he was out of office, though the court ultimately ruled against him in the case.
Is Steve Bannon covered by executive privilege? This is unclear. Mr. Bannon’s case could raise the novel legal question of whether or how far a claim of executive privilege may extend to communications between a president and an informal adviser outside of the government.
What is contempt of Congress? It is a sanction imposed on people who defy congressional subpoenas. Congress can refer contempt citations to the Justice Department and ask for criminal charges. Mr. Bannon has been indicted on contempt charges for refusing to comply with a subpoena that seeks documents and testimony.
In a report recommending that the House find Mr. Bannon in contempt, the committee repeatedly cited comments Mr. Bannon made on his radio show on Jan. 5 — when he said “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow” — as evidence that “he had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day.”
Investigators have also pointed to a conversation Mr. Bannon had with Mr. Trump on Dec. 30 in which he urged him to focus his efforts on Jan. 6. Mr. Bannon also was present at a meeting at the Willard Hotel in Washington on Jan. 5 when plans were discussed to try to overturn the results of the election the next day, the committee has said.
While many of those who received subpoenas have sought to work with the committee to some degree, Mr. Bannon claimed that his conversations with Mr. Trump were covered by executive privilege. Mr. Bannon made that claim even though he had not worked in the White House for years at the time of the Jan. 6 riot.
The indictment of Mr. Bannon also raised questions about similar potential criminal exposure for Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff.
Before the Justice Department announced the indictment of Mr. Bannon, Mr. Meadows, a former House member from North Carolina, failed to meet a deadline on Friday for complying with the House committee’s request for information.
The leaders of the House committee, Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, and Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, have said they will now consider pursuing contempt charges against Mr. Meadows.