Stephen Bannon, the former Trump White House adviser who was indicted last week after defying a congressional subpoena, will plead not guilty to contempt of Congress charges and asked to waive a formal arraignment that was scheduled for Thursday, according to documents filed in federal court Wednesday.
Bannon, 67, will still make a virtual court appearance Thursday, according to his filing.
Bannon, like former President Donald Trump, has refused to comply with an order from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection to turn over records and testify about his actions leading up to the attack, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol trying to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral college win.
Democrats and a handful of anti-Trump Republicans argue that the indictment was necessary to enforce subpoenas issued by the Jan. 6 committee to Trump associates who are resisting cooperation and to witnesses summoned by other congressional panels.
Bannon surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning and was released on personal recognizance after making his first court appearance in the afternoon. He remained defiant as he entered the FBI field office in downtown Washington, saying: “I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball for what we do every day. . . . We’re taking down the Biden regime.”
In court, Bannon appeared in a green barn jacket and black collared shirt before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather, who read the charges against him: two counts of contempt of Congress, each punishable by at least 30 days and up to a year in jail if convicted and up to a $100,000 fine.
Prosecutors did not seek detention for a misdemeanor offense, and Bannon was released after swearing to comply with pretrial court supervision, including checking in weekly by phone and notifying the court of any travel outside the D.C. area. Afterward, he spoke outside the courthouse to reporters while protesters held up a sign saying “coup plotter” behind them.
“I’m telling you right now this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,” Bannon told reporters, referring the U.S. attorney general, the House speaker and the president. “We’re going to go on the offense on this and stand by.”
The committee wants to question Bannon about activities at the Willard hotel the night before the riot, when Trump supporters sought to persuade Republican lawmakers to block certification of the 2020 election results. The subpoena noted that Bannon predicted “hell is going to break loose” on Jan. 6, and the committee’s report recommending that he be found in contempt said the comments indicated he “had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day.”
In declining to cooperate, Bannon’s lawyer wrote to the committee in October saying that Trump lawyer Justin Clark had instructed Bannon not to respond and that Bannon would not cooperate pending a court order or a committee agreement with Trump.
Trump has maintained that he will deploy executive privilege claims to defy the House select committee’s requests, and over the weekend, he released statements expressing his support for Bannon.