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Steve Bannon appeared in court after refusing to comply with Jan. 6 panel's subpoena

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

On Friday, Steve Bannon was indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress. This morning, Bannon surrendered to the FBI and made his initial appearance in federal court in Washington, D.C. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has this report.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: A little before 10 a.m. this morning, a black SUV pulled up outside the FBI's Washington field office. Steve Bannon, the one-time political strategist to former President Trump, stepped out into a gaggle of photographers and cameras.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Back up, back up, back up.

LUCAS: Ever the political pugilist, Bannon used the occasion - his self-surrender to the FBI on federal charges - to livestream the action and plug his podcast.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE BANNON: We're here today. I don't want anybody to take their eye off the ball, what we do every day, OK? We got the Hispanics coming on our side, African Americans coming on our side. We're taking down the Biden regime.

LUCAS: Bannon's surrender to the FBI comes three days after he was indicted by a grand jury for defying a subpoena from the House Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Bannon faces two counts of contempt of Congress - one for failing to appear for a deposition before the committee, the other for failing to provide documents to it. It is rare, although not unheard of, for the Justice Department to pursue such charges against a former White House official. The January 6 committee believes the decision to do so with Bannon sends a message to other witnesses in the investigation. Here's California Democrat and committee member Adam Schiff speaking to NBC's "Meet The Press."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADAM SCHIFF: The fact that the Justice Department has moved as quickly as it did is really helpful because, as I mentioned, that's already having an effect on other witnesses who are coming forward and not choosing to go to jail, as Steve Bannon may.

LUCAS: The committee says it has already interviewed or deposed around 150 cooperative witnesses, and it has issued more than 30 subpoenas. But it has encountered stiff resistance from Bannon and others, including former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. Like Bannon, Meadows has claimed he's shielded from testifying by Trump's assertion of executive privilege. Unlike Bannon, Meadows was still serving in the White House when the Capitol riot took place. Meadows did not show up for his deposition with the committee last week, and the panel's leadership says it will have to consider pursuing contempt against him, as it did against Bannon. In court Monday, Bannon was ordered released without bond, pending trial. Outside the courthouse afterwards, Bannon's lawyers called the case outrageous and noted that the charges are misdemeanors. Bannon, for his part, had this to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BANNON: You see these signs right here and the guys over here saying insurrection and all that? That's what this country's about. It's freedom of speech. They got their opinions. We have our opinions, OK? Hang on. They have their opinions. I'm telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.

LUCAS: Bannon also vowed to go on the offensive, although it's unclear quite what he has in mind. What is clear is that he's due back in federal court on Thursday. Ryan Lucas, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.