Steve Bannon guilty of 2 accounts of contempt of Congress
Former top Trump adviser Steve Bannon was convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 panel.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon was found guilty of contempt of Congress on Friday after a brief trial that featured only two government witnesses who detailed the longtime Donald Trump aide's defiance of a House committee's demand for records and testimony in its investigation of the Capitol attack.
The federal court jury deliberated for less than three hours before reaching its decision, handing victories to the special House committee that initiated the contempt proceedings as well as the Justice Department's prosecution. Sentencing is set for October 21.
Prosecutors urged conviction in closing arguments, claiming that Bannon "chose allegiance to Donald Trump" over an obligation to comply with Congress.
"The defendant made a deliberate decision not to comply," Assistant US Attorney Molly Gaston told jurors. "That, ladies and gentleman, is contempt. We are here because the defendant has contempt for Congress.
"He has contempt for our system of government and does not believe he has to abide by the rules. Find him guilty."
Bannon's attorney's arguments
Meanwhile, Bannon's attorney, Evan Corcoran, maintained that the House committee had targeted his client because of Bannon's long relationship with the Republican former president. He also suggested that the prosecution's main witness was biased against Bannon.
"Why was Steve Bannon singled out?" Corcoran told the jury, turning his focus on Kristin Amerling, the House committee's chief counsel and the government's main witness.
Amerling's work for Democratic lawmakers and her acknowledged contributions to Democratic political candidates were mentioned by Corcoran. The witness had previously testified that she had known one of the prosecutors, Gaston, for about 15 years when they both worked for former Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. They were also members of the same book club.
"Why did Ms. Amerling want to make an example of Steve Bannon? It’s an election year," the attorney said.
Final arguments followed Bannon's lawyers' decision not to call any witnesses in the case. Bannon's lawyer, David Schoen, told US District Judge Carl Nichols on Thursday that his client had decided not to testify because the court had barred the legal team from raising a number of defenses, including that Bannon was exempt from complying with the subpoena because he believed Trump had invoked executive privilege.
Bannon charged with 2 counts of contempt
Bannon is charged with two counts of contempt, one for failing to appear for the deposition and another for failing to produce documents.
Each count carries a minimum of 30 days in jail and a maximum of one year in prison, as well as a $100,000 fine.
Federal prosecutors rested their case against Bannon on Wednesday after only two witnesses testified, including Amerling, who told the jury that the former Trump aide defied the panel's demand for documents and testimony despite the threat of criminal prosecution.
Amerling, the committee's deputy staff director, said Bannon was repeatedly warned that if he did not produce the required information and appear for a deposition, he would face contempt charges, but he failed to meet every deadline outlined in the Sept. 23, 2021 subpoena.
Amerling stated that in correspondence with Bannon attorney Robert Costello, the lawyer never requested an extension of the deadlines or suggested that his client lacked information relevant to the committee's investigation. Rather, Costello contended that Bannon was protected by executive privilege.
"The select committee's position was this was not a valid rationale for refusing to comply," Amerling said, adding that the committee never received a notice – "formal or informal" – that Trump invoked executive privilege related to Bannon.