A US federal judge on Monday ordered the release of Donald Trump ally and former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon a few hours after he turned himself in at an FBI field office in Washington, but she confiscated his passport so that he cannot leave the country.
Bannon turned himself in at an FBI field office in Washington on Monday and later appeared before Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather in US District Court for the District of Columbia after being indicted last week on two charges for contempt of Congress for not responding to a subpoena from the special committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol.
Upon leaving the courthouse in the US capital, Bannon appeared defiant and with his finger in the air warningly, declared "I'm never going to back down. They took on the wrong guy this time."
He accused President Joe Biden, US Attorney General Merrick Garland and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of violating his right to freedom of speech and, on several occasions, repeated that now he and his legal team would go "on offense."
When asked by reporters about the significance of his threats, Bannon's attorney explained that his legal team will vigorously defend his rights in court.
Bannon, who was the architect of Trump's 2016 election campaign, also took a combative stance with the press when he arrived at the FBI field office on Monday morning to turn himself in.
At that point, before entering the courthouse, he declared that "We're taking down the Biden regime."
Addressing his supporters, Bannon said to a camera live-streaming the event: "I want you guys to stay focused ... This is all noise."
Bannon was accompanied by bodyguards dressed in black and wearing black facemasks.
After turning himself in, Bannon spent several hours in federal custody and then appeared before Judge Meriweather at a hearing during which prosecutors did not ask that he be held in preventive custody and the judge decided to release him while he awaits further hearings and potential trial.
She did, however, impose the regular conditions in such cases: confiscation of his passport to prevent his fleeing the US and the condition that he notify court authorities in advance of any trip he might make within the US.
In addition, if he wants to travel outside the US, Bannon would have to receive the approval of a judge and only then would his passport be returned.
Bannon's next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday at 11 am, but this will be a virtual appearance at the request of his attorneys and will be before District of Columbia Federal Judge Carl J. Nichols, who was appointed by Trump.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment with two counts, one for Bannon's defiance of a subpoena to testify, the other for his refusal to hand over documents, the department said in a statement If found guilty of contempt of Congress, Bannon could face between 30 days and one year in prison on each of the charges, as well as a fine ranging from $100 to $100,000.
The formal indictment came last Friday after on Oct. 21 the House of Representatives declared Bannon in contempt for refusing to appear before the Jan. 6 investigative committee probing the deadly assault on the Capitol by a mob who had been incited to march on the legislative seat by Trump himself.
Bannon told the committee he was unwilling to testify or provide documents until the courts resolve Trump's claim that the information being sought is protected by executive privilege.
The indictment has been forwarded to the Department of Justice, which must decide if it will pursue the matter.
On Jan. 6, a mob of some 10,000 - most of them Trump supporters who had just listened to the then-president harangue them and urge them to march on the Capitol - headed en masse to the legislative seat and some 800 of them broke into the building with an eye toward preventing lawmakers assembled there from certifying Biden's Nov. 3 election victory.
Five people died as a result of the Jan. 6 disturbances, including a rioter fatally shot by law enforcement and a police officer who suffered a stroke during the confrontation. More than 140 law enforcement officers and security personnel were attacked in the gigantic melee by rioters armed with axes, baseball bats, hockey sticks and other objects, according to authorities