The Morning Dispatch: Grand Jury Indicts Steve Bannon

The former Trump adviser faces charges on two counts of contempt of Congress.

Happy Monday! We are saddened to announce that our bid to buy the rights to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. and convert it into Dispatch HQ was not accepted

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that a record 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs in September as workers seek to capitalize on the incredibly tight labor market. There were approximately 10.4 million unfilled job openings in the country at the end of September.

  • The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday extended its previous stay on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine/testing mandate, with the court’s three-judge panel arguing the rule “grossly exceeds” the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) statutory authority. The constitutionality of the mandate—which was scheduled to go into effect January 4, 2022—is likely to eventually be appealed up to the Supreme Court.

  • A federal grand jury on Friday indicted Steve Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress after the longtime Trump associate flouted a subpoena issued by the House’s January 6 Select Committee. Mark Meadows—Trump’s chief of staff the day of the attack—did not show up for a scheduled deposition before the committee on Friday.

  • President Biden on Friday announced his intent to nominate Dr. Robert Califf to serve as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. Califf, a cardiologist, first held the role in the Obama administration from 2016 to 2017. Biden also announced Sunday he is tapping Mitch Landrieu, former mayor of New Orleans, to oversee the implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure package.

  • Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski officially announced Friday that she will run for re-election in Alaska next year, setting up a primary clash with former Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, whom former President Trump has endorsed. The National Republican Senatorial Committee announced it would back Murkowski’s re-election bid despite her support for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year.

  • The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said Sunday that six people were killed in protests on Saturday against the coup carried out by the Sudanese in late October.

Steve Bannon Indicted

For weeks, allies of Donald Trump—often at the behest of the former president—have undertaken a campaign of willful non-compliance when summoned before a House select committee tasked with investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Unanswered subpoenas and legal efforts to withhold documentation have come to characterize what many Republicans have attempted to dismiss as a partisan witch hunt, despite the presence of two Republicans on the panel. As recently as Friday, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows failed to appear for a deposition.

But hours later, a federal grand jury indicted former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress following a referral by the House. Each count carries with it the possibility of a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of a year in jail, along with financial penalties. 

While lawmakers on the select committee hope the Justice Department’s move toward accountability will act as a warning to other Trump associates flouting congressional subpoenas, legal experts say that Bannon’s many missteps throughout the investigation have lent themselves to prosecution in ways that others have thus far avoided. And because Bannon was acting as a private citizen on January 6—he left the Trump White House in 2017—his claims to executive privilege are more dubious than those of Meadows and other sitting administration officials. 

Bannon was summoned to testify before the committee (and produce relevant documents) in October as part of its ongoing probe into the January 6 riots and the events leading up to them. On January 5, the day before Congress was set to certify Joe Biden’s electoral victory, Bannon had predicted on his podcast that “all hell is going to break loose” at the Capitol, and he was reportedly one of the loudest voices in Trump’s ear urging him to obstruct the vote certification.

Bannon now faces jail time—not for his alleged role in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results, but for his ongoing refusal to cooperate with the congressional investigation into it. On October 7—Bannon’s first scheduled hearing before the committee—his lawyer submitted a letter claiming executive privilege seven hours after his client was set to appear. On October 14, his second planned appearance, Bannon never showed—or even submitted an excuse for skipping. 

Worth Your Time

  • In a piece for The Atlantic, McKay Coppins looks at the career trajectory of Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee—who went from fighting Donald Trump’s nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention to favorably comparing him to a figure from the Book of Mormon four years later—and whether he has anything to worry about as he looks to run for a third term next year. “First elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, Lee has long rankled the local establishment in Utah, where he is viewed by many as a showboating obstructionist whose penchant for provocation routinely embarrasses his home state and its predominant religion,” Coppins writes. “Lee’s MAGA makeover during the Trump presidency served only to exacerbate that perception. Now, as he prepares to run for reelection next year, Lee is bracing for a concerted, multifront campaign to unseat him.”

  • In an essay for National Review, an active duty combat-arms officer derides what he sees as a “stunning” lack of accountability for the botched U.S. drone strike that killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including several children. Last week, an independent Pentagon review concluded the fatal error was not caused by misconduct or negligence, and no disciplinary action was recommended. “Having personally conducted countless dynamic-targeting situations while running current operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, I can attest that you do not just strike a car you have been actively tracking for eight hours that is loaded with civilians without people making serious mistakes,” the officer writes under the pen name Robert Berg. “Likely these mistakes came at much higher levels than Air Force lieutenant general Sami Said’s review cared to look.”

  • Ross Douthat has spent most of his career in punditry advising the Republican Party to move beyond Ronald Reagan’s vision of conservatism. But even he has to admit that—from inflationary concerns, to rising crime rates, to a bubbling “Cold War” with China—there are a growing number of parallels between the world of the 1970s and ‘80s and today. “For the electoral landscape of this specific moment, and the politics of 2022, the G.O.P. has advantages unlike any in my pundit’s lifetime,” he writes in his latest column. “A chance to win, and maybe win big, by eschewing the unpleasant work of adaptation and simply playing those 1980s hits again.”

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • In Friday’s G-File, Jonah uses the latest developments regarding the Steele dossier to make a point about both-sides-ism. “Going by what we know, the Steele dossier was a travesty. It was an outrageous, indefensible, dirty trick,” he writes. But on “the other side of the ledger,” Donald Trump openly called on the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election, his campaign held a meeting with a Russian woman promising to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort, gave internal polling data to Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik. “Now you can make as much or as little about all of this as you want—and many people have, in both pro- and anti-Trump tribes,” Jonah concludes. “My only point is that just because Team A misbehaved, that doesn’t mean Team B’s misbehavior didn’t exist.”

  • David’s Sunday French Press takes a look at Ramirez v. Collier, a Supreme Court case that will determine whether a pastor can pray for and touch John Henry Ramirez in the execution chamber as he is put to death by the state of Texas. “When [Pastor] Dana Moore gets into a car and drives hundreds of miles to meet a condemned man, he is an instrument of that grace,” David writes. “This is the church at its best, when a pastor lives out the parable of the lost sheep. He’s a shepherd who quite literally leaves his flock behind each day that he drives out to Livingston Texas, to meet the one behind bars, waiting to die. But if Texas does not relent, and if the court does not intervene, we will see the state fail its foundational obligations.”

  • A new report details the Chinese Communist Party’s goal of “seizing Taiwan without a fight”—and Friday’s Vital Interests (🔒) details how that could happen. The People’s Liberation Army’s “Three Warfares” doctrine encapsulates psychological, public opinion, and legal combat, Thomas Joscelyn notes. “It is not clear if these tactics are all equally effective, or even what their overall effect really is. Regardless, the CCP’s assault on Taiwan has already begun—once you understand that warfare is more than just bullets.”

  • Scott Lincicome, America’s favorite economic policy wonk, is back on The Dispatch Podcast to discuss supply chains, inflation, wages, and labor force participation!

  • Haley, Harvest, and Ryan are still working through hundreds of pages of legislative text to discern where exactly Democrats’ Build Back Better Act would allocate money. In Friday’s Uphill (🔒): Climate and health care policy. 

  • On the site today, Chris Stirewalt uses the example of the #freebritany movement to explore the emergence of online mobs. “Communities built around obsessive interests online spill out into real life. Helping create a mob makes people feel powerful, and membership in a mob makes people even more fanatical,” he writes.

  • Klon Kitchen explains why the newly introduced Filter Bubble Transparency Act won’t fix social media.

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Charlotte Lawson (@lawsonreports), Audrey Fahlberg (@AudreyFahlberg), Ryan Brown (@RyanP_Brown), Harvest Prude (@HarvestPrude), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).