Jury convicts Bannon of contempt of Congress
(The Hill) — A federal jury on Friday convicted Steve Bannon of two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The 68-year-old political strategist, who served as former President Trump’s campaign CEO and White House adviser, faces a minimum sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail.
The jury took less than three hours to reach a verdict on the two misdemeanor counts. They began deliberating on Friday after hearing testimony from just two witnesses over the course of a week.
Bannon’s lawyers chose not to present their own case, offering no defense witnesses. Evan Corcoran, one of Bannon’s attorneys, said in his closing argument Friday that there was plenty of reasonable doubt concerning his client’s guilt.
“We didn’t feel the need to put on a defense,” Corcoran told the jury.
Prosecutors had argued the case presented a straightforward question of whether Bannon met the legal obligations laid out for him in the subpoena last year.
“This case is not complicated but it is important,” Molly Gaston, an assistant U.S. Attorney, said in her closing argument Friday. “When it came down to it, he did not want to recognize Congress’s authority or play by the government’s rules.”
Bannon was indicted in November of last year after the House voted to hold him in contempt for failing to show up for a deposition and turn over documents as demanded by the Jan. 6 select committee’s subpoena.
The subpoena, issued on Sept. 23, 2021, ordered Bannon to turn over a wide range of documents by Oct. 7 of that year and appear before the committee for a deposition on Oct. 14.
An attorney for Bannon, Robert Costello, said in letters to the committee that his client would not comply because Trump had asserted executive privilege and because of an ongoing civil case at the time between the former president and the select committee.
While Corcoran had told the jury Friday that the defense felt no need to present a case, Bannon’s lawyers expressed frustration throughout the trial that they had been “handcuffed” from presenting certain arguments.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols had ruled Bannon would not be allowed to argue at trial that he was relying on the advice of his lawyers in not complying with the subpoena, or that any assertion of executive privilege excused him from meeting the committee’s demands.
On Thursday, David Schoen, another member of Bannon’s defense team, told the court his client would have testified in his own defense if Nichols had not prohibited them from mounting those arguments.
“He’s wanted to testify publicly in this case under oath to tell the court, the jury and the public exactly what the true facts of the case are,” Schoen said. “However, on the advice of counsel … he has decided not to testify, because he understands that he would be barred from telling the true facts explaining why he did what he did, and why he did not do what he did not do in relation to the committee’s subpoena. He wanted to testify under oath to explain that at all times, he believed he was doing what the law required him to do, based on his lawyer’s advice.”