As he faces trial this week on charges of contempt of Congress, former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon has raised the possibility that he could take the witness stand. While defendants rarely testify in their own defense, the trial could be the only time Bannon testifies under oath, because the charge of contempt makes it less, less likely, that he will ever speak to lawmakers.
Bannon is accused of ignoring subpoena demands from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the United States Capitol. The committee asked for testimony and documents from him, most notably about his conversations with President Donald Trump on January 5 and 6, 2021. Bannon declined, claiming executive privilege.
But suing Bannon makes it harder, not easier, to get his testimony. As a criminal defendant, he has the right to decline to answer questions, and he has a legal strategy for trial and possible appeal that can challenge congressional testimony. When Bannon offered to speak with the commission earlier this month, prosecutors said it was irrelevant what Bannon claims he might do now; the bottom line is that when faced with a congressional subpoena and a deadline, he gave them nothing.
In that sense, the trial could serve as a warning and cautionary tale — not to Bannon, but to anyone who would flatly refuse to interact with the Jan. 6 committee or any other part of Congress.