As he goes on trial this week on charges of contempt of Congress, former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon held out the possibility that he might take the witness stand. While defendants rarely testify in their own defense, the hearing will mark the only time Bannon will testify under oath because charging him with contempt makes it less, not more, likely he will speak to lawmakers.
Bannon is accused of defying a subpoena from a House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The panel sought testimony and documents from him, particularly regarding his conversations with President Donald Trump on January 5 and 6, 2021. Bannon refused, citing executive privilege.
But charging Bannon would make getting his testimony harder, not easier. As a criminal defendant, he has rights to refuse to answer questions, and he has a legal strategy for trial and possible appeals where he can argue against congressional testimony. When Bannon offered to speak to the committee earlier this month, lawyers said it was inappropriate to say what Bannon might do now; Crucially, when faced with congressional subpoenas and deadlines, he gave them none.
In that sense, the hearing could be a cautionary tale — not for Bannon, but for anyone else who refuses to get involved with the January 6 Committee or any other part of Congress.
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