Former President Donald Trump's longtime adviser Steve Bannon lashed out at President Joe Biden and his administration on Monday, saying after a court appearance they "took on the wrong guy" by bringing criminal charges over his defiance of a congressional inquiry into the deadly Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
Bannon, indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress, appeared before Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather, who released him on his personal recognizance. Hours earlier, Bannon turned himself in at an FBI field office in Washington, flanked by black-clad bodyguards.
Bannon took aim at Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Attorney General Merrick Garland in comments to reporters outside the federal courthouse after the hearing.
"I'm telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden," Bannon said. .".. And we're going to go on the offense. We're tired of playing defense."
"I'm never going to back down. They took on the wrong guy this time," Bannon added.
Before surrendering to the FBI earlier in the day, Bannon told reporters, "We're taking down the Biden regime."
Meriweather imposed several conditions on Bannon before releasing him including surrendering his U.S. passport. Bannon did not enter a plea during the hearing, with an arraignment instead scheduled for Thursday before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols.
Bannon was indicted on one contempt count for refusing to appear for a deposition before the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack and a second count for refusing to produce documents.
In comments aimed at his supporters before turning himself in, Bannon looked directly into a camera that was live-streaming on the social media platform GETTR, founded by Trump ally Jason Miller.
"I want you guys to stay focused," said Bannon, who wore a olive-green coat over black clothing and was accompanied by body guards dressed in black including black face masks, while a demonstrator standing behind him held a sign that read "Coup Plotter."
"This is all noise," Bannon added, while also touting his own podcast.
Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail along with a monetary fine.
During the hearing, Bannon conferred frequently with his two lawyers, smiling and laughing on occasion in the courtroom. Prompted by a court employee, Bannon raised his hand and swore to abide by the conditions of his pretrial release.
Bannon is one of more than 30 people close to Trump ordered by the House committee to testify about the run-up to Jan. 6, when protesters stormed the Capitol in a failed attempt to prevent formal congressional certification of Trump's loss to Biden.
Trump has urged his former associates not to cooperate with the Democrat-led committee. In defying his subpoena, Bannon cited Trump's insistence that he has a right to keep the requested material confidential under a legal doctrine called executive privilege.
Bannon, a prominent figure in right-wing media circles, was an architect of Trump's 2016 presidential victory and served as White House chief strategist in 2017. The former Goldman Sachs Group banker and Navy veteran has promoted right-wing causes and candidates in the United States and abroad.
PRIOR TRUMP PARDON
Bannon separately was charged last year with defrauding donors to a private fund-raising effort to boost Trump's pledge to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump pardoned Bannon before the case could go to trial.
The House committee has said Bannon made public statements suggesting he knew in advance about "extreme events" that would occur on Jan. 6. Bannon said on a Jan. 5 podcast that "all hell is going to break loose tomorrow."
Shortly before the Jan. 6 riot, Trump gave a speech to supporters rallying near the White House reiterating claims that the election was stolen from him through widespread voting fraud.
House investigators hope the charges against Bannon will motivate other witnesses including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who on Friday refused to appear for a deposition, to testify.
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