Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Friday to face a criminal contempt charge for violating a court order to comply with a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The former adviser to President Donald Trump is accused of colluding with Russia as part of an investigation into whether the 2016 presidential campaign worked with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the election.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Bannon to appear before her on Jan. 31, after U.S. prosecutors complained last month that he had refused to comply with the same subpoena that White House counsel Don McGahn had complied with. Bannon was ordered to appear Thursday, but the Justice Department later reversed itself and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Bannon showed up at the courthouse on Friday morning wearing a bulletproof vest and black sunglasses, and later spoke in a brief court appearance before Judge Jackson, who promised him representation from lawyers who work closely with the Mueller investigation. He was also represented by a law firm representing the Trump White House.
The Special Counsel did not accuse Bannon of lying in court or accusing him of threatening to appear before the judge. Prosecutors did say, however, that Bannon had lied repeatedly to them about his communication with media organizations, including news outlet Breitbart News.
Judge Jackson said she was not surprised by Bannon’s defiant behavior ahead of the court hearing, and that she “was not sure the court would feel compelled to issue a prison sentence for this contempt charge.” She added that Bannon was appearing in person at the courthouse as part of a bargain with the Justice Department because he is under a restraining order, in which he cannot go near the White House.
Bannon’s lawyer argued that his client, a political operative whose entire career was predicated on riding the wave of outrage that would sweep over the Republican Party, would be a “scapegoat” if he refused to show up.