Steve Bannon found in contempt of Congress for challenging House Jan. 6 committee

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  • A jury needed only three hours to find Steve Bannon guilty of contempt of Congress.
  • Bannon tried to highlight his recent offer to testify before the House Jan. 6 committee.
  • Prosecutors argued that Bannon considered himself “above the law” and brazenly challenged the House.

Steve Bannon was found guilty Friday of criminal contempt of Congress in connection with his disregard of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

A jury in Washington, DC, returned the verdict after nearly three hours of deliberation, giving the Justice Department a decisive victory in a case stemming from a House remand recommending that the longtime Trump ally and former chief White House strategist faces charges.

Bannon refused to testify in his own defense or to call any witnesses on the stand. But he walked out of court after each day of the proceedings to address reporters and lash out at the House Jan. 6 committee, at one point accusing its members of lacking the ‘courage’ to testify against him during of the trial.

Leaving court on Friday, Bannon pledged to appeal the conviction, saying he had lost the “battle” but not the “war”.

“I have only one disappointment, and that is that the courageous members of this show trial committee – the J6 committee – did not have the courage to come here and testify in open court,” Bannon said Friday.

The House voted in October to scorn Bannon for refusing to sit down for questioning or turn over documents to the nine-member committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack and former President Donald Trump’s efforts to quash the 2020 election. Weeks after that vote sent Bannon back to the Justice Department for prosecution, a grand jury indicted Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress, each carrying a maximum sentence of one year in prison and 100 $000 fine.

The jury of eight men and four women found Bannon guilty on each of these two counts.

Ahead of Bannon’s trial, a federal judge issued a series of rulings that severely limited his defenses, preventing Trump’s former White House adviser from arguing that executive privilege excused his adamant refusal to appear before Bannon. the House committee. Judge Carl Nichols, a confirmed Trump appointee in 2019, also barred Bannon from arguing that he challenged the House committee based on his attorney’s advice.

Prosecutors argued that Bannon “decided he was above the law” and brazenly snubbed the House committee “when it overturned the October deadlines to sit for questioning and turn over the Subpoenaed Cases In closing argument on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston pointed to Bannon and said, “This is a simple case about a man – this man, Steve Bannon – who is not s is not presented.”

Gaston later pointed to Bannon saying, “I’m with Trump,” in October 2021 after receiving a subpoena.

“The defendant chose allegiance to Donald Trump over respect for the law,” Gaston said.

Bannon’s defense attorney, Evan Corcoran, flatly said the Trump ally was “innocent” and argued the contempt charges were fueled by politics. In a closing argument that drew multiple objections from Gaston, Corcoran recalled listening to reports about foreign countries where “people in power” are trying to “silence the opposition”.

Corcoran urged jurors to uphold what he called an essential principle of U.S. criminal prosecutions: that “politics can play no part.”

At the start of the trial, Bannon seemed to face long difficulties, and his lawyers were keen to preserve the possibility of appealing several decisions. Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, argued the defense team was “severely hamstrung” by its failure, based on an earlier decision by Nichols, to call members of the House committee on January 6. , namely its chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson.

As the defense team felt handcuffed by pretrial rulings, Nichols allowed them to raise Bannon’s recent offer to testify before the House committee after months of stonewalling. Bannon attributed his reversal to a letter from Trump, received about a week before the trial, claiming to waive executive privilege.

In a rebuttal to Corcoran’s closing argument, prosecutor Amanda Vaughn told jurors that Bannon’s sudden decision to testify was to “convince you that a delay is not a delay.”

“Give me a break,” Vaughn told jurors. “Don’t be fooled by that.”

Vaughn described Bannon’s offer as “nothing more than a ploy” – and “not even good” because he still hadn’t agreed to hand over the documents.

Prior to trial, prosecutors objected to Bannon withdrawing his offer to testify, which they had described in pretrial filings as a “last ditch attempt to avoid accountability.” But at trial, they seemed to see an opening to make Bannon’s offer to testify against him.

In her questioning of Kristin Amerling, a lead lawyer on the House Jan. 6 committee, Vaughn pointed out that the offer to testify came just before Bannon was put on trial. And, as the end of the current Congress nears, Amerling said Bannon’s months of defiance cost the House Jan. 6 committee valuable time in its investigation of the Capitol attack and its preparation until to January 6.

Amerling testified that the House Jan. 6 committee became interested in Bannon, in part because he predicted on his podcast a day before Jan. 6 that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”

Corcoran questioned Amerling’s impartiality in her closing argument, telling jurors she had worked for Democratic members of Congress for 20 years.

“Does she look like someone who’s used to getting what they want?” asked Corcoran. “Why was Steve Bannon chosen? »

Corcoran also drew attention to how Gaston and Amerling overlapped on a House committee years ago and were part of the same book club.

“Make no mistake about it,” Corcoran said. I’m not against the book club.”

Addressing this part of Corcoran’s conclusion, Vaughn wondered if he understood Amerling’s testimony.

“I don’t know which courtroom Mr. Corcoran was in,” she said. “But all I learned from this testimony is that Ms. Amerling and Ms. Gaston are book club dropouts.”

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