Monday’s jury selection marked the beginning of the contempt of Congress trial for Steve Bannon, one of several former Trump White House advisers who have refused to comply with a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee.
Bannon wasn’t officially part of the Trump campaign on Jan. 6, 2021, but the committee is seeking his testimony and any relevant documents because he was in contact with then-President Donald Trump around the 2020 election. What's more, the committee has said Bannon was in Washington the day before the Capitol riot, allegedly trying to persuade lawmakers to vote against certifying Joe Biden’s victory.
Bannon, the former executive chairman of the right-wing news site Breitbart, is one of the most blustery figures in Trump’s orbit and a geyser of fascist rhetoric. He pictures himself a media mastermind with the power to steer the conservative movement and all its players at will. And in the lead-up to his contempt hearing, Bannon used all his bombast in an attempt to scare officials out of going forward with it.
Last year, Bannon told reporters that top Democrats would rue the day he was charged with contempt, vowing to make his case “the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.” That seemed to imply Bannon was going to make a mess of the trial and try to force the Jan. 6 committee to divulge things like internal communications and interviews conducted in secret. But there's no sign his kicking and screaming will stave off an almost-certain guilty verdict.
Last month, Bannon augmented his threats just a tad, saying on his podcast that Attorney General Merrick Garland and “everybody in the DOJ” would be impeached if Trump is indicted over anything stemming from his effort to overturn the election.
"We dare you because we will impeach you," he said. "We’re winning in November and we’re going to impeach you and everybody around you. F--- — screw the White House. We’re going to impeach you and everybody in the DOJ."
And just last week, he took to his podcast to issue another threat — this time, using the third person.
“Pray for our enemies, because we’re going medieval on these people. We’re going to savage our enemies,” Bannon said, adding: “Who needs prayers? Not MAGA, not 'War Room' [podcast], and certainly not Stephen K. Bannon, but I’ll take everything I can get.”
A federal judge recently rejected several of Bannon's defense arguments, including Bannon's claim that Trump had invoked executive privilege over some records.
Bannon is what we call a “studio gangster.” In music, the phrase is used for artists who rap or sing about things they can’t back up in real life. Bannon’s threats are evidence the term should apply to podcasters, too. After months of chirping about what his self-proclaimed enemies could expect, the trial he tried to stave off is proceeding — whether he likes it or not.
The House Jan. 6 committee will hold its eighth public hearing on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Get expert analysis in real-time on our live blog at msnbc.com/jan6hearings.