Steve Bannon guilty of criminal contempt of Congress

Steve Bannon charged with contempt of Congress


Washington— Steve Bannon, a former campaign adviser to Donald Trump and chief White House strategist, was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents and testimony issued by the House select committee investigating the case. of January 1st. 6 attack on the Capitol.

A jury of 12 Washington, DC residents convicted Bannon after less than three hours of deliberation.

Bannon did not testify in his own defense and faces a maximum of one year in prison for each of the two charges. He will not be detained pending sentencing, which is set for October 21.

The Justice Department charged Bannon with contempt after the House of Representatives voted to submit a criminal reference for his noncompliance to the indictment last year.

Bannon pleaded not guilty, and what ensued was a tumultuous legal battle between the defense and prosecutors over what evidence was admissible, Bannon’s efforts to delay the prosecution, and ongoing televised hearings showing the House Select Committee’s evidence in January 6, which referenced Bannon several times.

The House committee, which closed its late summer hearing on thursday nightissued the subpoena in September 2021. The panel sought information from Bannon in 17 key areas, from his communications with former President Trump to his knowledge of coordinating among right-wing extremist groups in carrying out the attack on Capitol Hill.

Washington, DC: Juror reads verdict in criminal contempt case against Steve Bannon, July 22, 2022.

Sketch by William Hennessy Jr.

Prosecutors told the jury that Bannon thought he was “above the law” and “touched his nose” on congressional demands, while Bannon himself did not testify and his legal team did not call witnesses.

The January 6 committee’s chief adviser told the jurors that it is “very unusual” for witnesses who receive a subpoena from Congress not to comply, as Bannon did. Kristin Amerling, one of two witnesses called by prosecutors, said the committee viewed Bannon’s referral to the Justice Department for contempt of Congress as a “very serious step.” They warned Bannon that he could be charged with a crime, she said, but he did not comply.

Bannon maintained at the time of his refusal that he could not testify because of issues of executive privilege raised by the former president. Amerling, however, said the committee never received notice from Trump of this obstacle to ousting Bannon, and the committee would not have acknowledged such a claim anyway.

In a surprising twist days before the trial began, Bannon told the Jan. willing to testify — publicly — after his attorney, Robert Costello, said Trump reversed course on those executive privilege claims.

The jury was allowed to hear about the reversal in both the cross-examination of witnesses and the closing statements, but jurors were instructed by the judge that it had nothing to do with Bannon’s alleged earlier refusal to comply.

“Whether or not Mr. Bannon in the future will comply with the subpoena is not relevant whether or not he was in default in October,” said Judge Carl Nichols.

Prosecutors also called the FBI agent assigned to the case, who testified that Bannon had made several online posts indicating his decision to not comply with the subpoena in order to “stay with Trump”.

“Our government only works if people show up. It only works if people follow the rules. And it only works if people are held accountable for not doing so,” prosecutor Molly Gaston said in closing arguments.

“Defendant chooses loyalty to Donald Trump over law enforcement,” she said.

But the defense team argued that Bannon was innocent, that he felt that conversations about the validity of Trump’s executive privilege claim were ongoing and flexible, and that he had not voluntarily defied Congress’ request. They told the jury that he had possibly been “excluded” by the committee and Amerling because of politics.

“Even if you think in hindsight that the path that Mr. Bannon took and the path that his attorney took … turned out to be a mistake,” attorney Evan Corcoran told the jury in his closing statements, “was not a crime. ”

“The entire foundation of the government’s case rests with Ms. Amerling,” the attorney added, accusing her of inaccuracies and then pointing out that Amerling and Gaston were former colleagues and part of the same book club. Amerling said they had no personal relationship, and the book club had no bearing on her testimony.

Throughout the trial, but outside the presence of the jury, Bannon’s lawyers disagreed with the judge’s preliminary rulings, including one that would have prevented Bannon from saying that he was only following the lawyer’s advice and that he believed executive privilege applied to the your decision. not testify before the commission. The defense was also not authorized to call members of the House committee on Jan. 6 as witnesses, which they said put them at a disadvantage because they were unable to investigate the reasoning behind the subpoena and its deadlines.

Outside the courtroom, Bannon told reporters he supported Trump and the Constitution. His lawyers have indicated that they intend to appeal the decision, based on Nichols’ suggestion that he may not have agreed with DC’s binding precedent that barred Bannon from summoning members of Congress to testify and barred him from defending himself, based on advice from the attorney.

“Shame on this office… for how far they’ve gone in this case,” Schoen said of the US attorney.

Bannon is the first of two Trump allies accused of criminally defying the January 6 committee’s demands to stand trial. Former trade adviser Peter Navarro also faces two counts of contempt of Congress. He has pleaded not guilty and is due to stand trial in November.

Prosecutors declined to file charges against two other former Trump White House officials whom the House named in contempt. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and adviser Dan Scavino have not been charged with any crimes after the Jan. 6 committee said it failed to properly comply with a subpoena.

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