A jury found former Trump White House aide Steve Bannon guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress in a misdemeanor charge Friday after less than three hours of deliberation.
The former Trump advisor now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days incarceration and up to two years behind bars. He could also face a fine of up to $1,000. A sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21.
The jury came to the conclusion after prosecutors and defense wrapped up their closing arguments Friday. The trial lasted one week and featured only two witnesses.
Bannon is the first figure to be found guilty of contempt of Congress since Attorney General Richard Kleindienst and Watergate burglar G. Gordon Liddy were convicted in 1974.
The jury is out for deliberations in the misdemeanor contempt of Congress charge against former Trump aide Steve Bannon after prosecutors and defense wrapped up their closing arguments Friday
Bannon is pictured arriving at the courthouse Friday morning ahead of the final day of his trial
Bannon, a former Trump advisor, now faces at least 30 days and up to one year behind bars
Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors told the jury that ignoring a congressional subpoena is like ignoring a parking ticket. DOJ prosecutor Molly Gaston said that with a parking ticket, there are two options: show up to court and try to fight it or pay it.
‘What he doesn’t get to do is ignore the order to pay it,’ Gaston said, noting that if you don’t pay a ticket or show up for a subpoena, there are consequences.
She argued that Bannon’s excuse that he thought he was barred from testifying due to former President Trump asserting executive privilege did not carry weight.
Gaston said that Bannon made an ‘intentional’ choice not to cooperate and cited quotes Bannon made to DailyMail.com in December when he said he would not be cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee subpoena for testimony. ‘I stand with Trump and the Constitution,’ Bannon said at the time.
‘His belief that he had an excuse not to comply does not matter, that is not a defense to contempt,’ she said. ‘He has contempt for our system of government and he does not think he needs to play by its rules.’
‘The defendant chose defiance, find him guilty,’ Gaston told jurors.
The defense, meanwhile, accused the case of being politically motivated and accused a witness brought in by the prosecution of political bias.
Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran first tried to poke holes in the case itself, saying that the subpoena may not have been signed by Jan. 6 committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson himself. He said the signature on the subpoena looks sloppier than Thompson’s signature on other documents, and may not be ‘legitimate.’
Corcoran then moved to the potential bias of DOJ witness, Kristin Amerling, a House Select Committee staffer who worked on the subpoena and the committee’s responses to Bannon.
Corcoran pointed out that Amerling had been in a bookclub with one of the DOJ’s prosecutors.
‘That would make you question whether they’re impartial…and that’s a reasonable doubt,’ Corcoran told the jury.
He then again hit home on what he was the alleged political bias of the trial.
‘We come to our political views honestly … no one should … face a criminal prosecution … based on politics,’ he said. ‘Politics can play no role.’
Bannon’s legal team rested its case on Thursday after the former Donald Trump adviser refused to testify in his own defense for criminal contempt of Congress charges.
As he left a Washington, DC court on the summer afternoon, Bannon told reporters that he had testified more than any other Trump aide when factoring time spent speaking to investigators who looked at Russia’s potential links to the Trump 2016 campaign and efforts to influence the election.
He parted ways with the press with the message, ‘One last thing: I stand with Trump and the Constitution.’
Bannon’s lawyers called no witnesses on his behalf, and District Judge Carl Nichols dismissed the 14 men and women who make up the jury a short while later.
One female juror was dismissed due to a noncontagious medical issue, according to the Washington Post.
That means Friday will bring closing arguments, jury instruction and deliberations – and potentially a speedy verdict.
He’d previously promised to make his criminal trial the ‘misdemeanor from hell’ for the Justice Department.
‘Of any person in the Trump administration, Stephen K. Bannon has testified, what, 30 hours in front of the Mueller commission, I think 20 hours in front of Schiff in the House Intelligence commission- House Intelligence Committee,’ Bannon told reporters Thursday.
Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former adviser, ranted at reporters after refusing to take the stand in his own defense against contempt of Congress charges
Bannon pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of criminal contempt. He was indicted for failing to comply with a subpoena from the House January 6 committee
Closing arguments will be on Friday, followed by jury deliberations – meaning what Bannon promised would be the ‘misdemeanor from hell’ for the government could wrap after a five-day trial
‘I think over 50 hours of testimony. Every time, the exact same way…every time, every single time, more than anybody else in the Trump administration…Stephen K. Bannon testified.’
Attorney David Schoen told Nichols that no defense would be presented to the jury after the jury spent two days hearing from the House January 6 committee’s general counsel, Kristin Amerling as well as an FBI agent.
‘You are not intending to put on any evidence to the jury?’ Nichols asked, according to the Daily Beast.
Schoen replied, ‘Correct. We’re not putting on a defense case.’
The right-wing activist and podcast host is on trial for two misdemeanor counts of criminal contempt because he defied the committee’s subpoena in fall 2021.
Lawmakers wanted to obtain documents from Bannon as well as hear about Trump’s alleged efforts to stay in power despite losing the 2020 presidential election.
Both of the prosecution’s witnesses testified that Bannon did not turn over the requested documents nor did he hand over the documents requested.
Bannon’s lawyers attempted to pin them on who exactly was responsible for sending his subpoena in an apparent effort to accuse Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson of political motivations.
Evan Corcoran, another member of Bannon’s legal team, had asked the jury during his opening argument: ‘Is this piece of evidence affected by politics?’
It comes after Bannon abruptly reversed-course and offered to sit for a public hearing in front of the committee
His lawyers claimed it did not represent a change of heart but rather was the result of Trump waiving executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony
And the defense has insisted that Bannon never willfully ignored the subpoena.
After 10 months of appearing to ignore the January 6 committee’s order, Bannon abruptly reversed-course earlier this month and offered to sit for a public hearing via a letter from his attorney.
He cited a message from Trump where the ex-president waived executive privilege he previously claimed over Bannon’s testimony.
But prosecutors dismissed Trump’s letter out of hand as an attempt to deflect accountability.
Nichols gave Bannon’s defense a potential boost on Wednesday when he allowed the executive privilege letter to be entered into the record as evidence.
It came after the judge shot down several of Bannon’s potential defenses last week and rejected his request to delay the trial, prompting his exasperated attorneys to question what was the point of putting up a defense at all.
Bannon had been present at the Willard Hotel the night of January 5 into January 6, when Trump’s allies formed a ‘war room’ to hatch a legal strategy to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory the next day.
He’s believed to have spoken with Trump by phone personally that night.