Bannon, facing jail and fines, agrees to testify to Jan 6 committee

Washington: With his criminal trial for contempt of Congress approaching, Steve Bannon, an ally of former President Donald Trump who was involved in his plans to overturn the 2020 election, has informed the House committee investigating the Capitol attack that he is willing to testify, according to two letters obtained by The New York Times.

His decision is a remarkable about-face for Bannon, who until Saturday had been among the most obstinate and defiant of the committee’s potential witnesses. He had promised to turn the criminal case against him into the “misdemeanor from hell” for the justice department.

But with the possibility of two years in jail and large fines looming on the horizon, Bannon has been authorised to testify by Trump, his attorney told the committee in a letter late Saturday (local time).

Steve Bannon (left) and his attorney David Schoen speak to the media after Bannon surrendered to authorities in Novemver 2021.Credit:Samuel Corum/Bloomberg

The former president had previously instructed Bannon and other associates not to cooperate with the panel, claiming that executive privilege – a president’s power to withhold certain internal executive branch information –compelled them to stay silent. But in recent days, as several witnesses have come forward to offer the House panel damning testimony about his conduct, Trump has grown frustrated that one of his fiercest defenders has not yet appeared before the committee, people close to him said.

“Bannon is willing to, and indeed prefers, to testify at your public hearing,” Robert Costello, Bannon’s attorney, wrote to Democrat Bennie Thompson, chairman of the committee investigating the January 6 riot.

Costello said Bannon’s decision to comply with the committee’s subpoena came after he was cleared to testify by Trump. He provided the panel with a letter that Trump sent to Bannon on Saturday (local time) that waived any claim to executive privilege over this testimony.

The committee and the Justice Department have long maintained that Trump has no valid claim of executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony, in part because Bannon left the White House in 2017 and was a private citizen when he was involved in Trump’s efforts to hold on to power after the 2020 election.

Bannon’s trial on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress is set for July 18. Each count carries a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $US100,000 fine.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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