While Donald Trump is still in the process of putting together his administration, over the weekend the president-elect appointed Steve Bannon to a top White House position. Announced on Sunday, the former head of Breitbart News, an ultra-conservative political news site, will be Trump’s chief strategist and senior counsel. Just a day after the announcement, old accusations began to resurface, revealing that one of Trump’s now closest advisers had allegedly violently abused his wife in the 1990s. The upsetting resurfacing has many asking: Was Steve Bannon ever actually charged with domestic violence, and if so, how will it affect Trump's tenure in the White House?
According to according to a Santa Monica police report and court documents obtained by Politico, the incident took place more than two decades ago on New Year’s Day in 1996; Bannon was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness, all of which he pleaded not guilty to. However, the charges were later dropped due to witness unavailability when his now ex-wife did not show up to court.
Politico reported in August that Bannon’s then-wife, Mary Louise Piccard, "claimed he pulled at her neck and wrist during an altercation over their finances, and an officer reported witnessing red marks on her neck and wrist to bolster her account." According to Politico, Bannon also allegedly smashed the phone when Piccard tried to call the police.
According to the police report, police responded to a hang-up 911 during the early hours of Jan. 1, 1996. Piccard answered the door at the home looking "very upset" and it took several minutes to compose herself.
Piccard was Bannon's second wife and they have twin daughters who were born three days after they got married in April 1995 (the girls were just 7 months old at the time of the alleged incident). According to Politico, the couple was divorced shortly after the criminal charges were dropped in August 1996. Bannon has chosen previously not to respond to the allegations publicly but a representative told The Los Angeles Times back in August that Bannon "has a great relationship (with his children and ex-wife.)"
This reported incident may not have been the first time an argument turned physical as Piccard told police that there had been three or four similar arguments over the course of their relationship. According to the report, she claimed in her conversations with police that,
In the beginning of their relationship, she said they [had] 3 or 4 arguments that became physical and they had been going to counseling. There has not been any physical abuse in their arguments for about the past 4 years. [REDACTED] said they have been arguing a lot, but no violence.
According to records obtained by The New York Times, Piccard claimed that she was threatened by Bannon not to testify, which is perhaps why she never showed up to court.
In addition to accusations of domestic violence against Bannon, the news site he leads, Breitbart News, produces content on anti-Semitic, racist and white nationalist ideology. According to The Huffington Post, Bannon also has a lengthy record of alleged sexist behavior, including one incident in which he and an associate were accused of sexual harassment in a 1990s court case in Arizona.
While these resurfaced accusations are certainly upsetting, the news that one of Trump's comrades would bring this type of background with him is, sadly, not entirely surprising. It's a grim reminder that more than one person with a long line of alleged misogyny will be handling the reins of the free world.