Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon pleads not guilty to obstructing Jan 6 congressional probe

Steve Bannon arrives at the FBI's Washington field office to turn himself in to federal authorities, on Nov 15, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Former president Donald Trump's longtime adviser Steve Bannon on Wednesday (Nov 17) pleaded not guilty to criminal charges that he defied a congressional subpoena from a US House panel investigating the deadly Jan 6 Capitol riot, according to court documents.

Bannon, who made his initial appearance in federal court on Monday, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury on two counts of contempt of Congress.

Bannon has vowed to fight the congressional subpoena, telling reporters outside the courthouse on Monday that he believes the prosecution is a politically motivated attack against him by President Joe Biden, Attorney-General Merrick Garland and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

He was due to be arraigned in court on Thursday, but agreed to waive his right to a formal reading of the indictment, according to court documents filed on Wednesday.

The US House of Representatives, led by the Democrats, voted on Oct. 21 to hold Bannon in contempt, leaving it up to the Justice Department, headed by Garland, to decide on any charges.

A Republican, Trump has sought to stonewall the House committee and directed his associates not to cooperate, claiming that a former president 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.

He faces one contempt count for refusing to appear for a deposition before the House Select Committee and a second for refusing to produce documents.

Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison along with a fine of up to US$100,000 (S$130,000).

In a fiery speech before the riot, Trump told followers to "fight like hell."

Four people died in the riot. A Capitol Police officer attacked by protesters died a day later and four officers later took their own lives. About 140 officers were injured.

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