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Steve Bannon found guilty of contempt related to Jan 6 investigation

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WASHINGTON — For weeks, Stephen K. Bannon, a former top adviser to President Donald J. Trump, gave heated speeches about his pending trial, promising to go “medieval” at some point against the prosecutors who had accused him of refusing to resign. comply with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

But once he was in court, he decided not to testify or mount any other kind of defense, and on Friday, Mr. Bannon was convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress.

The jury’s verdict, reached after less than three hours of deliberation, came a day after a video of Bannon briefly appeared in a public hearing of the House committee that he had rejected. Investigators played a clip where he said that Mr Trump intended to declare victory in the 2020 election, whatever the results.

Bannon, 68, remained defiant in comments outside the courthouse, saying the prosecutor’s claim that he chose “loyalty to Donald Trump over compliance with the law” was correct but omitted an important detail.

“I support Trump and the Constitution,” Bannon said. “I’ll never turn that back.”

On Fox News later on Friday, Mr. Bannon lashed out at the committee, calling for the defeat of its members and an investigation of its staff. “I would say to the Jan. 6 staff now, keep your documents,” Mr. Bannon said, “because there will be a real committee” once Republicans take power in Congress.

Judge Carl J. Nichols issued a verdict in late October, but David I. Schoen, an attorney for Mr. Bannon, said his client would appeal the conviction.

Mr. Bannon’s conviction was the latest twist in a tumultuous political career in which he took a leadership role over the years in bringing together right-wing media, presidential politics, and America First-style populism. He helped found the website Breitbart News, which he once described as a “platform for the alt-right,” a loosely affiliated collection of racists, misogynists and Islamophobes that rose to prominence around the time of Trump’s first campaign.

As of 2016, Mr. Bannon was the chief architect of the campaign, helping Mr. Trump deliver his divisive, populist message. He was taken to the White House after Mr. Trump’s victory to work as a strategist and senior adviser to the president, but it was only seven months before he returned to Breitbart.

Mr Trump eventually pardoned Mr Bannon in his final hours in office.

Following Mr Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, Mr Bannon once again came to his aid. He worked with Peter Navarro, a White House adviser, to devise a strategy for keeping the president in office, which they called the “Green Bay Sweep.” The plan called on Republican members of the House and Senate to block electoral college vote counting on Jan. 6, 2021, so lawmakers in key swing states could decertify voting results in their states and give Mr. Trump a win.

Mr. Bannon’s conviction was the first from a close associate of Mr. Trump that resulted from one of the key investigations into the Capitol bombing. Mr Navarro has also been charged with contempt after he defied a subpoena from the House committee and is expected to appear in court in November.

Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, was charged last November. He has remained free without bail, as prosecutors have not asked the court to detain him.

Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor, where each count is punishable by a fine and a maximum of 12 months in prison. At the time, the filing of charges against him was widely seen as evidence that the Justice Department could take an aggressive stance against some of Mr Trump’s key allies as the House seeks a more complete picture of the former president’s actions and his inner circle before and during the attack.

Despite the legal battles that preceded his trial, Bannon’s guilt or innocence ultimately turned into a simple question: whether he had defied the House committee by ignoring its subpoena. “This case is not complicated, but it is important,” Molly Gaston, a federal prosecutor, said in a closing statement Friday.

Ms Gaston told the jury that the House committee had wanted to ask Mr Bannon about his presence at the Willard Hotel before the Capitol bombing, where plans were being discussed to reverse the election, and about his statement the day before the election. attack that “all hell” would erupt on January 6.

But, she argued, Mr. Bannon had blatantly ignored the commission’s demands to protect his former boss.

During his own summons, M. Evan Corcoran, one of Mr. Bannon, arguing that the subpoena his client received was incorrectly signed by the commission, adding before the jury that Mr. Bannon had not intentionally failed to comply with it. Mr Corcoran also noted, in an attempt to suggest a hint of impropriety, that a prosecutor in the case and one of the government witnesses had belonged to the same book club.

Before the court began on Friday, Mr. Bannon’s legal team made a written request to Judge Nichols to ask the jurors if they had looked into what the team described as the “highly inflammatory segment” of the prime-time hearing. committee on Thursday, in which Mr. bannon. But Judge Nichols declined to poll the jurors.

Like many defendants, Mr. Bannon did not file a defense case for the jury, but instead decided to rely on a cross-examination of the prosecution’s two witnesses: a lawyer for the commission and an FBI agent who had worked on the case.

Last week, lawyers suggested that Mr. Bannon would take the stand, but in the end he decided not to testify.

The testimony in the trial ended on Wednesday when the prosecutor dropped his case against Bannon, arguing that he deliberately ignored the subpoena for both records and testimony, even after being warned he could face criminal charges.

The proceedings came down to the simple fact that Bannon had “pinched his nose” against the law, prosecutors said.

Mr. Bannon’s lawyers objected that the time limits set by the committee for receiving their client’s testimony and documents were flexible, one of the few arguments Judge Nichols had left open to the defense. In preliminary rulings, Judge Nichols had said the attorneys should not argue before the jury that Bannon had received legal advice to ignore the subpoena or allege that Mr. Trump personally authorized him to do so.

“Mr. Bannon has a full story as to why he failed to show up — his counsel from counsel, invocation of executive privilege, questions about its validity, and so on,” Mr. Schoen, Mr. Bannon’s attorney, argued this week for the court. before the trial started. “All these defenses and his story about the case have been suspended by the court at the request of the government.”

With his limited capabilities, Mr. Corcoran claimed at trial that the subpoena and the prosecution’s own case were politically motivated.

Before the trial began, Mr. Bannon changed course and offered to testify before the Jan. 6 commission. But prosecutors have portrayed that move as a last-ditch effort to avoid charges.

Judge Nichols also denied multiple defense requests to delay the trial, first over concerns that the Jan. 6 commission’s public hearings and continued coverage of the trial would erode the jury pool and later because the defense said it was unprepared. was to plead his case after the limitations Judge Nichols had placed on his possible arguments.

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