Federal authorities released Steve Bannon, former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, on his own recognizance Monday afternoon, hours after he surrendered to face charges of contempt of Congress—though they confiscated his passport and limited his ability to travel.
Prosecutors and U.S. Pretrial Services agreed to remand the MAGA mastermind to general supervision, obligating him to give up his passport and to obtain permission for travel outside the continental United States, as well as requiring him to check in weekly with the court. His next appearance was scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, in front of Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee.
The decision came days after a federal grand jury indicted Bannon for ignoring a subpoena from the House committee probing the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and after weeks of Bannon refusing to give testimony or supply demanded documents. Like other Trump aides who have flouted the House committee’s subpoenas, Bannon and his legal team have maintained that his communications with the ex-president enjoy executive privilege—despite Trump no longer holding the presidency and Bannon having not served in the executive branch since 2017.
The indictment on Friday noted that Bannon told Congress in response to the subpoena that the direction to disregard came from the former commander-in-chief, confirming a Washington Post report last month.
Federal prosecutors told the magistrate judge Monday that they intend to seek the maximum sentence for the two charges, meaning Bannon faces as much as a year in jail and a $100,000 fine on each count. Representing Bannon in court were former Trump impeachment lawyer David Schoen—whom Bannon once mocked on his War Room podcast—and former federal prosecutor M. Evan Corcoran.
Speaking outside the courtroom following the appearance, Schoen bashed the Justice Department and the House committee, lambasting the charges against his client as “outrageous.” Bannon, he maintained, had no choice but to ignore the subpoenas given the advice of his then-counsel and the ex-president claiming executive privilege. He further asserted that Bannon was the victim of a politicized prosecution.
“There is nothing about this case that reflects a pursuit of equal justice under the law. This thing was a scam from the beginning,” Schoen said. “He had an obligation to honor the privilege that was invoked.”
The Justice Department declined to comment on those remarks. Bannon, for his part, vowed to “go on offense” against the officials he viewed as responsible for his indictment.
“This is gonna be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden,” Bannon said, though he declined to elaborate further.
Addressing his podcast crew as he approached the Federal Bureau of Investigation Field Office in Washington, D.C., earlier Monday, Bannon had framed his federal charges as little more than a distraction from what he claimed was a growing multiracial coalition against the Democrats in power.
“I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball of what we do every day. We got Hispanics coming on our side, African Americans coming on our side, we’re taking down the Biden regime,” he asserted, teasing the episode of his show that he vowed would air later in the day. “I want you guys to stay focused, stay on message. Remember, signal, not noise. This is all noise, that’s signal.”
Bannon is just the most prominent of a handful of erstwhile Trump aides who have resisted subpoenas from the committee. Ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was AWOL from a hearing last week, while one-time Defense Department staffer Kash Patel failed to appear for a deposition in October. Trump’s old deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino has also indicated he will not comply with orders to testify before the committee.
At issue is the Trump team’s involvement in planning the D.C. rallies that precipitated the deadly MAGA attack on the Capitol earlier this year. Bannon aggressively hyped the upcoming events on his podcast in the days before pro-Trump activists converged on the nation’s capital, and reportedly met with a few of the then-president’s legal advisers. The Daily Beast also uncovered evidence linking Bannon associates to a wave of text messages promoting the “Stop the Steal” gatherings.
The vanquished former president took a melodramatic view of the action against Bannon on Friday.
“This Country has perhaps never done to anyone what they have done to Steve Bannon and they are looking to do it to others, also,” he wrote in a statement. “If they would be so tough with China, Russia, and the world, who no longer respects us, maybe our Country would not be failing at a level at which we have never seen before.”
Trump already pardoned Bannon once, as he exited office, shielding his on-and-off strategist from charges that he embezzled funds from a nonprofit dedicated to financing a wall on the country’s southern border.