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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Steve Bannon Convicted of Contempt Charges

"The committee rushed to judgment because it wanted to make an example of Steve Bannon...”

(Headline USA) Steve Bannon was convicted Friday of contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

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

He faces up to 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 of Bannon’s lawyers said outside the courthouse the verdict would not stand. “This is round one,” Schoen said. “You will see this case reversed on appeal.”

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

He thanked the jurors for their service and said he had only one disappointment — “and that is the gutless members of that show trial committee, the J-6 committee didn’t have the guts to come down here and testify.”

The committee sought Bannon’s testimony over his involvement in Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Bannon had initially argued that his testimony was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege. But 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 private citizen when he was consulting with the then-president in the run-up to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.

Bannon was served with a subpoena on Sept. 23 last year ordering him to provide 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 each side negotiated terms.

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

Corcoran also hinted that the government’s main 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 of the prosecutors for years.

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

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 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 since the judge’s previous rulings had gutted his planned avenues of defense. Among 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.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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