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Bannon guilty on two criminal contempt of Congress charges

The conviction does not compel Bannon to cooperate with the House select committee or comply with a subpoena

Steve Bannon is seen after being found guilty of contempt of Congress outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Friday.
Steve Bannon is seen after being found guilty of contempt of Congress outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Friday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A jury found Steve Bannon guilty of two criminal charges of contempt of Congress on Friday for his refusal to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The guilty verdict for the ally of former President Donald Trump was the first in decades for defying the oversight power of Congress. It followed a weeklong trial and more than a year of legal wrangling over whether the House could secure testimony from those closest to Trump.

Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia set a sentencing hearing for Oct. 21, where Bannon will face a mandatory minimum of a 30-day sentence and a maximum sentence of one year on each count.

The conviction does not compel Bannon to cooperate with the House select committee or comply with the subpoena from the committee, which is continuing to investigate and said more hearings would come in September.

Outside the courthouse, Bannon told reporters that “we may have lost a battle but we’re not going to lose this war.” His attorney, David Schoen, said Bannon has a “bulletproof appeal.”

Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., issued a joint statement calling the verdict a “victory for the rule of law.”

“Just as there must be accountability for all those responsible for the events of January 6th, anyone who obstructs our investigation into these matters should face consequences. No one is above the law,” the statement said.

Bannon, a co-founder of Breitbart News, served as the CEO of Trump’s election campaign in 2016 before becoming a senior counselor in the first few months of the Trump administration. He left the White House in 2017 and continued backing Trump through Republican campaigns outside the administration.

The committee sought testimony and documents from Bannon for his knowledge about Trump and his actions leading up to Jan. 6. Bannon has been a private citizen since leaving the White House but refused to cooperate with the investigation, and later claimed the information was protected by executive privilege.

The committee issued a subpoena last September. The House voted to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress in October and a federal grand jury returned an indictment on both charges in November.

Bannon is among a handful of Trump allies who refused to cooperate with the committee and faced House votes holding them in criminal contempt of Congress. Former White House adviser Peter Navarro also faces criminal contempt charges following his refusal to cooperate with the panel.

The Justice Department declined to charge two others who were held in contempt, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former spokesman Dan Scavino.

In a series of eight public hearings, the panel has painted Trump as the executor of a broad campaign to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election, including efforts to have Justice Department officials interfere in state tallies and have rioters who attacked the Capitol interrupt the counting of electoral college votes.

Bannon was prominently featured in the committee’s presentation Thursday night, which included airing audio from October 2020 of him discussing Trump’s plan to declare victory following the 2020 election whether he won or not.

“He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner,” Bannon said in the audio the committee played, before going on to point out that Democrats were likely to vote by mail in the 2020 election, which meant in many states their votes would be counted later.

“Trump’s going to take advantage of that, that’s our strategy,” Bannon said in the audio.

Bannon’s defense team filed a motion Thursday night arguing for the judge to question jurors about whether they saw the hearing because it could “present a significant cause for concern regarding possible prejudice to Mr. Bannon’s constitutional fair trial rights and right to a jury trial.”

The trial also included a few last-minute twists. Bannon’s longtime attorney Robert Costello withdrew, saying he may be called as a defense witness citing his negotiations with the Jan. 6 committee. Nichols ruled Bannon could not argue Trump had granted him executive privilege against testifying, or call members of Congress to testify in the case.

Ultimately, Bannon declined to testify himself and his attorneys did not call any witnesses in his defense.

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