Matthew G. Saroff
4 min readNov 13, 2021


Steve Bannon, insurrectionist, political garbage man, and portrait of Dorian Gray, has been indicted on criminal contempt of Congress by the Department of Justice.

Honestly, I am surprised. I did not think that Attorney General Merrick Garland would do this, given his inclination to flee from even spurious accusations of politics:

Stephen K. Bannon, a onetime senior aide to former President Donald J. Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Friday on two counts of contempt of Congress, after his refusal to provide information to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Mr. Bannon, 67, had declined last month to comply with subpoenas from the committee seeking testimony and documents from him. The House then voted to hold Mr. Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress.

After holding Mr. Bannon in contempt, the House referred the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington for a decision on whether to prosecute him.

Mr. Trump has directed his former aides and advisers to invoke immunity and refrain from turning over documents that might be protected under executive privilege.


The politically and legally complex case was widely seen as a litmus test for whether the Justice Department would take an aggressive stance against one of Mr. Trump’s top allies as the House seeks to develop a fuller picture of the actions of the former president and his aides and advisers before and during the attack on the Capitol.


The grand jury’s decision to indict Mr. Bannon also raises questions about similar potential criminal exposure for Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff.

Indeed it does, but my money is on Garland not pursuing Meadows, because, unlike Bannon, he was still a White House staffer when he attempted to overthrow the US Government.


After the referral from the House in Mr. Bannon’s case, F.B.I. agents in the Washington field office investigated the matter. Career prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington determined that it would be appropriate to charge Mr. Bannon with two counts of contempt, and a person familiar with the deliberations said they received the full support of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland.

“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,” Mr. Garland said in a statement.

“Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles,” he added.


It is unusual for the department to bring contempt charges against government officials who refuse to comply with subpoenas. The last person charged with criminal contempt of Congress, Rita M. Lavelle, a former federal environmental official under President Ronald Reagan, was found not guilty in 1983 of failing to appear at a congressional subcommittee hearing. She was later sentenced to jail for lying to Congress.

Let us also remember that Ann Gorsuch Burford, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s mommy, was also cited for contempt, and I expect these charges to go all the way to the Supreme court, and I’m pretty sure that he will see no need to recuse himself.

As an aside, the Department of Justice has generally been refusing to enforce contempt of Congress referrals for well over a decade.

It seems to me that Congress should pass a law giving itself the right to prosecute using private counsel, because the Department of Justice simply won’t challenge an assertion of privilege by a sitting President these days.