WASHINGTON (AFP) - Former US president Donald Trump's longtime adviser Steve Bannon was indicted on Friday (Nov 12) for refusing to testify to the congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot, the Justice Department announced.
Bannon, who investigators suspect could have information on links between the White House and the Trump supporters who invaded the Capitol, was charged with two counts of contempt - for ignoring subpoenas to appear for a deposition and for failing to supply documents to the committee.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack subpoenaed Bannon, 67, on Sept 23.
He was among the first of dozens of people who have been called to testify on the violent attack that shut down Congress as it convened to certify Joe Biden's election win over Trump two months earlier.
The committee said it has reason to believe Bannon has "information relevant to understand important activities that led to and informed the events at the Capitol."
The committee pointed to his presence at activities focused on blocking Congress' certification session the day before, when he said: "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow."
After Trump claimed executive privilege to block aides from testifying and to prevent the committee from accessing documents from his administration, Bannon said he would not testify until questions over privilege had been resolved.
The House then voted to refer contempt of Congress charges to the Justice Department. Each count carries a penalty of one month to one year in jail.
Given the highly political background of the case, it was not clear the Justice Department would take action - until now.
"Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law," Attorney-General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
"Today's charges reflect the department's steadfast commitment to these principles," he said.