Steve Bannon Found In Contempt For Defying January 6 Committee Subpoena – KION546
By Tierney Sneed, Katelyn Polantz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
A federal jury has found former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack.
The conviction is a victory for the Jan. 6 House Select Committee, which continues to seek the cooperation of reluctant witnesses in its landmark investigation. It’s also a victory for the Justice Department, which has come under scrutiny for its approach to issues related to the January 6 attack.
After nearly two days of hearing evidence and testimony, the jury returned a unanimous verdict on both contempt charges in less than three hours.
Bannon will be sentenced on October 21. He faces a minimum sentence of 30 days in prison, according to federal law.
Bannon’s team did not mount a defense during the trial and he did not speak.
He was indicted by a federal grand jury in November after missing October deadlines to produce documents and testimony the committee had subpoenaed.
In demanding his cooperation, the committee had pointed to Bannon’s contacts with Trump before the Capitol storming, his presence in the so-called Trump allies war room at the Willard Hotel in Washington the day before the riot, and a prediction he made on his pre-riot podcast that “all hell” was going to “break loose”.
“In short, Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the House committee report recommends. a resolution of contempt against, he said. The House voted to despise Bannon in October.
Prior to the announcement of the verdict, Bannon entered the courtroom before the jury assembled in a relatively buoyant mood. He threw his face mask on the table as soon as he arrived, then sat on his phone for several minutes, a few times showing a message to his lawyer.
Once the jury was assembled, and before the verdict was read, he had one hand supporting the table and glanced at the jurors a few times, mostly looking at the judge. He smiled and smiled after the verdict was read, then patted his lawyers on the back.
The forewoman read the verdict in a soft voice. She wore a green mask – and the rest of the jury also kept their masks on.
The jurors answered in unison, “yes”, guilty was their verdict.
“We may have lost the battle here today, but we’re not going to lose the war,” Bannon said as he left the courtroom, adding that he respected the jury’s verdict.
Bannon said he always stood by the former president. “In closing argument, the prosecutor missed a very important sentence — I support Trump and the Constitution and I will never, ever back down,” he said.
Bannon is one of two uncooperative witnesses to be charged by the Justice Department so far with contempt of Congress. Trump’s White House adviser Peter Navarro was indicted by a grand jury last month for failing to comply with a subpoena and pleaded not guilty.
But two others — Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino — have not been charged, noted CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.
“It’s about punishment. It’s 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 him, they got their conviction. This is victory,” 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.”
Prosecutor: “A simple case”
In closing arguments Friday, the Justice Department told the jury the case was “not complicated” but was “important.”
“This is a simple case about a man – this man – who failed to show up,” prosecutor Molly Gaston said. Bannon, she argued, “did not want to recognize the authority of Congress or abide by the rules of government.”
Bannon’s team argued in closing that the jury had reason to doubt the case, while suggesting that the government’s key witness was not impartial.
“Mr. Bannon was unable to testify” for the committee, his attorney Evan Corcoran told the jury, while pointing to statements Trump had made about executive privilege in the House investigation.
When the House committee demanded his cooperation, Bannon’s attorney claimed that Trump’s stated assertions of executive privilege precluded Bannon from testifying or producing arguments — an argument the committee flatly rejected. Lawmakers noted that Bannon had not been a government official for years, while emphasizing their interest in topics not involving conversations with Trump.
At trial, however, Bannon’s arguments about executive privilege were not the focus – even though his attorneys found ways to draw attention to the issue. They did so despite the judge’s rulings finding it largely irrelevant, under appellate precedent, to the elements of the crime of contempt.
Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, has vowed to appeal.
“It’s (a) ironclad call,” Schoen told reporters. “Have you ever seen in another case a judge say six times in a case that he thinks the standard of will is wrong? He says it doesn’t fit modern case law, he says it doesn’t fit the standard definition, but he says his hands were tied by a 1961 decision. You’ll see this case overturned on appeal.
Executive privilege and deadline debate
How discussions of executive privilege should have figured into trial proceedings will be an issue Bannon will press on an appeal.
Bannon’s team also made several arguments for the trial record as to why he should have been allowed to put select committee chairman Bennie Thompson and other committee members on the stand to testify. The judge refused to allow Bannon to call them to the stand due to a House request to block their testimony, citing constitutional restrictions on when lawmakers can be subpoenaed.
During the trial, the Justice Department took the stand of a House staffer who testified to the many communications between the committee and Bannon’s attorney about subpoenas and House requests for comply within the time limits indicated. The second witness for prosecutors was an FBI agent who testified briefly about Bannon’s social media posts sharing articles describing his noncompliance.
In an attempt to undermine their testimony, the defense sought to sow doubt that the subpoena deadlines were firm, that the subpoena had been properly issued, and that the social media reposts expressed Bannon’s own views. Neither Bannon nor his attorney for dealing with the committee spoke up themselves, however. Bannon’s trial attorney read a statement from Bannon in court in which Bannon said he had “very much wanted” to testify “since the day he was charged,” but that the judge’s rulings crippling his lines of defense meant that he would be unable to tell “the true facts” if he spoke up. The jury was not present for this statement.
This story has been updated with additional details.
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CNN’s Holmes Lybrand and Rachel Janfaza contributed to this report.