Hours after being convicted of contempt of Congress on Friday for refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, Stephen K. Bannon appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and attacked the panel’s legitimacy.
But Bannon struck a belligerent tone during his Friday interview with Carlson, and appeared to threaten congressional staffers on the committee with an investigation into their work. “I will tell the Jan. 6 staff right now, preserve your documents, because there’s going to be a real committee and this has to be backed by Republican grass-roots voters,” he said.
“The Democrats are completely lawless, look at how they’ve run this committee,” he said of the bipartisan panel.
Bannon also repeated a GOP talking point that there was no ranking Republican on the committee, though Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), a prominent critic of President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, serves as vice chair. A Trump-appointed federal judge has ruled that Cheney serving as vice chair instead of “ranking minority member” is a distinction without a difference.
Representatives for Cheney and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the Jan. 6 Committee, did not immediately return requests for comment.
Bannon is one of only two Trump officials to face criminal charges linked to rebuffing the committee, alongside ex-White House trade adviser Peter K. Navarro. His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21. Each of the two misdemeanor offenses that Bannon has been found guilty of carries a penalty of between 30 days and one year in jail, though no one has been jailed for contempt of Congress since 1948.
Bannon’s defense team said it would file a “bulletproof” appeal, but their client appeared resigned to the possibility of imprisonment.
“I support Trump and the Constitution and if they want to put me in jail for that, so be it,” he said.
The podcaster and longtime Trump confidant also criticized the legal process. “They took away every possible defense for somebody to have a defense of law,” Bannon said.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols, who presided over the trial, rejected numerous potential defenses and mainly limited Bannon’s lawyers to the issue of whether their client understood the deadlines for answering lawmakers’ demands. Bannon’s attorneys intend to appeal some of Nichols’ rulings.
Bannon’s decision to criticize the panel and the ruling on Carlson’s show could prove unfavorable if he is sentenced, said Andrew M. Wright, a Washington-based attorney who specializes in congressional investigations. Judges weigh acceptance of responsibility as a factor in federal sentencing, he added.
“It’s hard to predict what the judge would do between the 30 days and the one year, but I can certainly tell you that I would not counsel a client to go out on the courthouse and trash the process,” said Wright, who previously worked for the Biden-Harris presidential transition team.
Bannon was a private citizen during the insurrection, but the Jan. 6 committee sought his testimony because members believe his podcasts may have contributed to radicalizing Trump supporters. The panel also said it has evidence of Bannon repeatedly talking to Trump officials in the lead-up to the Capitol riot.
The contempt case involved legislative efforts to investigate the Jan. 6 violence and what led up to it, rather than the actual events of the day.
Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett and Katie Mettler contributed to this report.