The conviction is a victory for the House Jan. 6 select committee, which continues to seek the cooperation of reluctant witnesses in its historic hearings. It is a victory for the judiciary, which has come under intense scrutiny for its approach to matters related to the January 6 attacks.
After nearly two days of testimony and witness testimony, the jury returned a unanimous verdict on two counts of contempt in less than three hours.
Bannon will be sentenced on October 21. He faces a minimum of 30 days in prison under federal law.
Bannon’s team did not mount a defense during the hearing, and he did not take the stand.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury in November after he beat an October deadline to produce documents and testimony filed by the committee.
In seeking his cooperation, the group pointed to Bannon’s contacts with Trump prior to the Capitol attack, his presence in the so-called war room of Trump associates at the Willard Hotel in Washington the day before the riots, and a prediction. Before the riots he said on his podcast that “all hell will break loose”.
“In short, it appears that Mr. Bannon played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people have a right to hear his direct testimony about his actions,” the House committee report recommends a contempt resolution. He said. The House voted to impeach Bannon in October.
Before the verdict was announced, Bannon entered the courtroom before the jury reconvened in a relatively subdued mood. He threw the mask down on the table as soon as he arrived, then sat on the phone for several minutes, showing a message to his lawyer a few times.
When the jury was assembled and before the verdict was read, he propped the table with one hand and looked at the jurors a few times, primarily at the judge. After the verdict was read he laughed and then patted his lawyers on the back.
The foreman read the verdict in a soft voice. He wore a green mask — all the other jurors wore theirs.
The jurors unanimously answered, “Yes,” their verdict was guilty.
“We may have lost the battle here today, but we’re not going to lose the war,” Bannon said as he left the courtroom, saying he respected the jury’s verdict.
Bannon said he still stands with the former president. “In closing arguments, the attorney missed a very important phrase — I stand with Trump and the Constitution, and I will never back down,” he said.
Bannon is one of only two uncooperative witnesses ever charged by the Justice Department with contempt of Congress. Trump White House counsel Peter Navarro was indicted by a grand jury last month for failing to comply with a panel’s subpoena and pleaded not guilty.
But two others — Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino — have not been charged, CNN senior legal analyst Eli Honig noted.
“This is about punishment. This is not about forcing someone to testify,” Honig said on CNN’s “Newsroom.”
“Steve Bannon is being punished now because he defied a congressional subpoena, the DOJ charged, and they got their punishment. That’s a win,” Honig said. “But there’s still a mixed message here, because remember the DOJ chose not to charge Mark Meadows, they chose not to charge Dan Scavino.”
Lawyer: ‘A simple case’
In its closing arguments Friday, the Justice Department told the judge the case was “not complicated,” but it was “important.”
“This is a simple case about a man — that man — who didn’t show up,” said prosecutor Molly Gaston. Bannon argued that he “didn’t want to recognize the power of Congress or play by the government’s rules.”
Bannon’s team argued the jury had reason to doubt the case, while suggesting the government’s key witness was not impartial.
His attorney Evan Corcoran told the jury that “Mr. Bannon is not in a position to testify” for the panel, while pointing to statements Trump made about executive privilege in House hearings.
When the House committee sought his cooperation, Bannon’s lawyer said Trump’s claims of executive privilege prevented Bannon from testifying or preparing arguments — an argument the committee rejected outright. Lawmakers noted that Bannon has not been a government official in years, while pointing to their interest in subject areas that include conversations with Trump.
At trial, however, Bannon’s arguments about executive privilege were not the main focus — even as his lawyers found ways to bring attention to the issue. They did so in the face of judge’s rulings that, under appellate precedent, were largely irrelevant to the elements of the offense of contempt.
Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, vowed to appeal.
“It’s (a) bulletproof appeal,” Schoen told reporters. “Have you ever seen a judge in another case say six times that he thinks the discretionary standard is wrong? He says it doesn’t fit modern jurisprudence, he says it doesn’t fit the standard definition, but he says his hands are tied by a 1961 decision. The case is on appeal. You will see that change.”
Administrative Privilege and Time Limits Debate
A question Bannon will press on appeal may be how executive privilege discussions should have appeared in the hearing proceedings.
Bannon’s team made several arguments for the hearing record as to why Select Committee Chairman Benny Thompson and other committee members should be allowed to testify. The judge refused to allow Bannon to be called to the stand because of a House request to block their testimony, citing constitutional restrictions on when lawmakers can be subpoenaed.
During the hearing, the Justice Department subpoenaed a House staffer who testified about numerous communications to the committee and Bannon’s attorney about the subpoenas and the House’s demands that he comply with specific deadlines. The prosecution’s second witness was an FBI agent who testified briefly about Bannon’s social media posts.
To try to undermine their testimony, the defense sought to create suspicion that the subpoena deadline was firm, that the subpoena was properly issued, and that the social media reposts revealed Bannon’s own views. However, neither Bannon nor his attorney took the stand to address the group. Bannon’s lawyer read a statement from Bannon to the court in which he said Bannon had “desperately wanted” to testify “since the day he was charged,” but the judge’s rulings meant his defense lines would be blocked. To tell the “real facts” if he takes the stand. The jury was not present for that statement.
This story has been updated with additional details.
CNN’s Holmes Lybrand and Rachel Janfasa contributed to this report.
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