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Steve Bannon’s Contempt Conviction Hailed By Jan. 6 Committee

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was convicted Friday of contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot on the U.S. Capitol. Committee leaders called the decision “a victory for the rule of law.”

Bannon, 68, was convicted after a four-day trial in federal court on two counts: one for refusing to look for a deposition and the opposite for refusing to supply documents in response to the committee’s subpoena. The jury of 8 men and 4 women deliberated slightly below three hours.

He faces as much as two years in federal prison when he’s sentenced on Oct. 21. Each count carries a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail.

David Schoen, one among Bannon’s lawyers said outside the courthouse the decision wouldn’t stand. “That is round one,” Schoen said. “You will note this case reversed on appeal.”

Likewise, Bannon himself said, “We could have lost the battle here today; we’re not going to lose this war.”

He thanked the jurors for his or her service and said he had just one disappointment — “and that’s the gutless members of that show trial committee, the J-6 committee didn’t have the heart to come back down here and testify.”

Prosecutors were just as firm on the opposite side of the decision.

“The subpoena to Stephen Bannon was not an invite that might be rejected or ignored,” Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney in Washington, said in an announcement. “Mr. Bannon had an obligation to look before the House Select Committee to present testimony and supply documents. His refusal to achieve this was deliberate, and now a jury has found that he must pay the implications.”

The committee sought Bannon’s testimony over his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Bannon had initially argued that his testimony was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege. However the House panel and the Justice Department contend such a claim is dubious because Trump had fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and Bannon was thus a non-public citizen when he was consulting with the then-president within the run-up to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Bannon’s lawyers tried to argue through the trial that he didn’t refuse to cooperate and that the dates “were in flux.” They pointed to the indisputable fact that Bannon had reversed course shortly before the trial kicked off — after Trump waived his objection — and had offered to testify before the committee.

In closing arguments Friday morning, each side re-emphasized their primary positions from the trial. The prosecution maintained that Bannon willfully ignored clear and explicit deadlines, and the defense claimed Bannon believed those deadlines were flexible and subject to negotiation.

Bannon was served with a subpoena on Sept. 23 last 12 months ordering him to supply requested documents to the committee by Oct. 7 and appear in person by Oct. 14. Bannon was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received the House panel’s referral.

Bannon’s attorney Evan Corcoran told jurors Friday in his closing arguments that those deadlines were mere “placeholders” while lawyers on both sides negotiated terms.

Corcoran said the committee “rushed to judgment” since it “desired to make an example of Steve Bannon.”

Corcoran also hinted that the federal government’s foremost witness, Jan. 6 committee chief counsel Kristin Amerling, was personally biased. Amerling acknowledged on the stand that she is a lifelong Democrat and has been friends with one among the prosecutors for years.

Jan. 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., was a specific goal for Bannon and his defense team. His name was brought up multiple times through the trial, although U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols had warned the defense not to assert in court that the committee itself was politically biased. Bannon harshly criticized Thompson by name in his day by day statements outside the courthouse, at one point implying that Thompson’s COVID-19 diagnosis last week was faked to avoid pressure to look.

Thompson and committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., hailed the decision in an announcement, calling it “a victory for the rule of law and a vital affirmation of the Select Committee’s work.”

“Just as there should be accountability for all those chargeable for the events of January sixth, anyone who obstructs our investigation into these matters should face consequences,” they said. “Nobody is above the law.”

Prosecutors focused on the series of letters exchanged between the Jan. 6 committee and Bannon’s lawyers. The correspondence shows Thompson immediately dismissing Bannon’s claim that he was exempted by Trump’s claim of executive privilege and explicitly threatening Bannon with criminal prosecution.

“The defense desires to make this difficult, difficult and confusing,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn in her closing statement. “This shouldn’t be difficult. This shouldn’t be hard. There have been only two witnesses since it’s so simple as it seems.”

The defense Thursday motioned for an acquittal, saying the prosecution had not proved its case. In making his motion for acquittal before Judge Nichols, Bannon attorney Corcoran said that “no reasonable juror could conclude that Mr. Bannon refused to comply.”

Once the motion was made the defense rested its case without putting on any witnesses, telling Nichols that Bannon saw no point in testifying for the reason that judge’s previous rulings had gutted his planned avenues of defense. Amongst other things, Bannon’s team was barred from claiming Bannon believed he was shielded by executive privilege or calling as witnesses House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or members of the House panel.

On Friday, Bannon appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” where he discussed his conviction with the Fox News host, saying he’ll “never back off” of his support of Trump and the structure.

Watch the conversation below:

Associated Press reporters Michael Balsamo and Gary Fields contributed to this report.

HuffPost’s Zahara Hill also contributed to this reporting.

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