Former Trump White House aide Steve Bannon was found guilty Friday of two counts of contempt of Congress after a trial in federal court in Washington, D.C.
Jurors deliberated for lower than three hours before convicting Bannon of willfully failing to comply with subpoenas demanding his testimony and records, which were issued last September by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
He faces a minimum punishment of 30 days in jail, and a maximum of 1 yr when he’s sentenced on Oct. 21. He also faces a tremendous within the range of $100 to a maximum of $100,000.
“The subpoena to Stephen Bannon was not an invite that may very well be rejected or ignored,” said Matthew Graves, the USA Attorney for the District of Columbia.
“Mr. Bannon had an obligation to seem before the House Select Committee to provide testimony and supply documents. His refusal to accomplish that was deliberate and now a jury has found that he must pay the implications.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House chief strategist Steve Bannon arrives following his trial on contempt of Congress charges for his refusal to cooperate with the U.S. House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., July 22, 2022.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
“We respect their decision,” Bannon, 68, said outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse, referring to the jurors at his trial.
“We can have lost a battle here today, but we’re not going to lose this war,” Bannon said. “I stand with Trump and the Structure, and I won’t ever back off that, ever.”
Bannon plans to appeal his conviction, which got here a day after the Jan. 6 committee held a public hearing which featured evidence that included his own words.
The committee played an audio clip of Bannon, talking to a bunch of individuals on Oct. 31, 2020, days before the presidential election, through which he said that Trump would claim to have won the White House race regardless of the particular results.
“What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory. Right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t suggest he’s a winner,” Bannon said. “He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.
That is strictly what Trump did for weeks after losing each the favored election vote and the Electoral College vote to President Joe Biden.
On Jan. 5, 2021, the eve of Congress holding a joint session to verify Biden’s Electoral College victory, Bannon spoke to Trump on the phone for 11 minutes, after which went on a radio show where he made a dark prediction.
“All hell goes to interrupt loose tomorrow,” Bannon said on that show. “It’s all converging, and now we’re on, as they are saying, the purpose of attack.”
“I’ll let you know this: It is not going to occur like you’re thinking that it will occur,” he said. “It may be quite extraordinarily different, and all I can say is strap in.”
The subsequent day, hundreds of Trump supporters who believed he had won the election besieged the Capitol, with a whole lot of them swarming through the halls of Congress, disrupting for hours the session confirming the official results.
The leaders of the Jan. 6 committee lauded the jury’s decision Friday.
“The conviction of Steve Bannon is a victory for the rule of law and a crucial affirmation of the Select Committee’s work,” Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said in a joint statement Friday afternoon.
“Because the prosecutor stated, Steve Bannon ‘selected allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law.’ Just as there have to be accountability for all those answerable for the events of January sixth, anyone who obstructs our investigation into these matters should face consequences. Nobody is above the law,” Thompson and Cheney said.
Bannon had served as chief strategist and counselor to Trump for a few half-year before being ousted in mid-2017. Since then, nevertheless, he has been an ardent backer of the ex-president and the so-called MAGA — “Make America Great Again” — movement.
Two weeks after the Capitol riot, on his last night as president, Trump issued dozens of pardons, including one to Bannon, who had been criminally charged in federal court in Latest York with swindling donors in a purported effort to construct a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Prosecutors in that case said Bannon received $1 million in funds from the We Construct the Wall group, and diverted that cash to a separate nonprofit he had already created, whose ostensible purpose was “promoting economic nationalism and American sovereignty.”
In her closing arguments Friday morning at Bannon’s contempt trial, assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston told jurors he “selected allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law” by refusing to seem for testimony and giving documents to the Jan. 6 committee.
“When it really comes all the way down to it, he didn’t want to acknowledge Congress’ authority or play by the federal government’s rules,” Gaston said. “Our government only works if people show up. It only works if people play by the foundations. And it only works if individuals are held accountable once they don’t.”
Bannon’s lawyers didn’t present a defense in the course of the trial, which began Monday with jury selection.
His attorneys were hamstrung by pretrial rulings by the judge within the case, who severely limited the evidence they may present at trial.
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During his own closing arguments Friday, Bannon’s lawyer Evan Corcoran tried to suggest that Rep. Bennie Thompson, the Mississippi Democrat who’s chair of the Jan. 6 committee, didn’t sign a subpoena for Bannon, NBC reported. Corcoran dropped that line of argument after the prosecution objected.
Corcoran also asked jurors to put aside memories of Jan. 6 of their deliberations.
“None of us will soon forget January 6, 2021,” Corcoran said. “It’s a part of our collective memory. But there is no evidence on this case that Steve Bannon was involved in any respect. For purposes of this case we’ve to place out of our thoughts January 6.”
Jurors began their deliberations just before 11:40 a.m. ET, after closing arguments concluded. The verdicts were read out in court at around 2:50 p.m. ET
One other former Trump aide, the trade advisor Peter Navarro, was arrested in early June on charges equivalent to those that Bannon was convicted of.
Navarro failed to seem to testify on March 2 in response to the subpoena from the House panel and likewise failed to provide by Feb. 23 the documents sought by that very same subpoena, in line with the indictment issued by a grand jury in Washington federal court.
– CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report.