Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former president Donald Trump, appeared in court on Monday charged with contempt of Congress, regarding the investigation of the deadly Capitol attack.
Bannon did not enter a plea, and the brief hearing determined that he be arraigned on Thursday. He was released after being ordered to surrender his passport, report once a week to pre-trial services and report travel plans.
An audio feed of the hearing was broadcast due to coronavirus restrictions.
Judge Robin Meriweather, presiding, said: “Mr Bannon, would you please stand and raise your right hand? Do you solemnly swear that you will well and truly answer the questions propounded to you by the court, so help you God?”
Bannon assented and the judge thanked him.
Meriweather then read the charges. Bannon faces two counts of criminal contempt: one for refusing to appear for a congressional deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.
Each count carries between 30 days and a year in jail. The indictment is the first for criminal contempt of Congress in nearly four decades.
Bannon’s arraignment on Thursday at 11am will be overseen by US district judge Carl Nichols – a Trump appointee.
Earlier, Bannon turned himself in to an FBI field office in Washington. He was surrounded by photographers and a protester holding a sign that said “Coup plotter” as he stepped out of a black vehicle at about 9.30am.
Livestreaming on his War Room show, which has a huge following among Trump supporters, he said: “I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball. We’re taking down the Biden regime every day. I want you guys to stay focused, stay on message. Remember, signal not noise. This is all noise, not signal.”
The 67-year-old was taken into custody.
Bannon, Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016 and then White House chief strategist in the first year of Trump’s presidency, was indicted on Friday after defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the deadly attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the election.
Bannon, a former executive chairman of Breitbart News, pushed false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. On 5 January, he prophesied on his podcast: “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
That evening he was part of a gathering of Trump allies at the Willard hotel in Washington that the House committee has called the “war room”.
Bannon refused to cooperate with the committee, citing an assertion of executive privilege by Trump. Legal experts argue that this has little standing given that Bannon was a private citizen at the time of the insurrection. Last month, the House voted 229-202 to hold him in contempt.
Joe Walsh, a Trump critic and former Republican congressman, tweeted: “Steve Bannon attacks our democracy and incites violence every day. And millions of people listen to him. And elected Republicans are afraid to call him out.”
A second expected witness, the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, defied his own subpoena from the committee on Friday. Trump has also intensified his legal battles to withhold documents and testimony about the insurrection.