- Sentencing follows less than 3 hours of jury deliberation
- First US Congressional Conviction Since 1974
- Defense Suggested Bannon’s Prosecution Was Political
WASHINGTON, July 22 (Reuters) – Steve Bannon, a key aide to former President Donald Trump and an influential figure on the US right, was convicted Friday of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the commission responsible for the attack. of last year on the US Capitol is investigating, a ruling the panel called a “victory for the rule of law.”
A jury has found Bannon, 68, guilty of two felonies for refusing to provide testimony or documents to the select House of Representatives committee as it overturned the January 6, 2021 frenzy by Trump supporters trying to monitor the results of the presidential election. of 2020, took a closer look. election.
Each count is punishable by 30 days to a year behind bars and a $100 to $100,000 fine. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols set a sentencing date for October 21.
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The verdict of the jury of eight men and four women, after less than three hours of deliberation, marked the first successful prosecution for contempt of Congress since 1974, when a judge found G. Gordon Liddy, a conspirator in the Watergate scandal that killed President Richard Nixon’s resignation, guilty.
Bannon was a key adviser to the Republican Trump presidential campaign in 2016 and then served as his chief strategist for the White House in 2017 before a feud between them broke out that was later patched up. Bannon has also played an important role in the right-wing media.
“We lost a battle here today. We are at war,” Bannon told reporters after the verdict.
Bannon denounced the “members of that show trial committee,” who he said “didn’t have the guts to come here and testify in public court.” Bannon chose not to testify in his own defense.
“The conviction of Steve Bannon is a victory for the rule of law,” committee chair Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, and Vice-Chairman Liz Cheney, a Republican, said in a statement.
“Just as anyone responsible for the events of January 6 must be held accountable, anyone who hinders our investigation into these cases must face consequences. No one is above the law,” they added.
Bannon’s defense team suggested in closing arguments Friday that Bannon was a political target, portraying the prosecution’s key witness as a politically motivated Democrat with ties to one of the accusers, including a member of the same book club. The prosecution said Bannon showed contempt for the authority of Congress and should be held responsible for unlawful resistance.
Prosecutor Molly Gaston told jurors that the attack was a “dark day” for America, adding, “There is nothing political about finding out why January 6 happened and making sure it never happens again.”
‘BULLET PROOF PROFESSION’
After the verdict, David Schoen, one of Bannon’s attorneys, promised his client that he would have “a bulletproof profession.”
The judge limited the scope of the case that Bannon’s team could present. Bannon was not allowed to claim that he believed his communications with Trump were subject to a legal doctrine called executive privilege that can keep certain presidential communications confidential, and he was prohibited from arguing that he relied on the legal advice of an attorney to decline. to adhere to this.
In two days of testimony, the prosecutors questioned only two witnesses and the defense called no one.
The conviction may strengthen the committee’s position in seeking testimony and documents from others in Trump’s orbit. Last year, Trump asked his associates not to cooperate and accused the commission of hurting him politically. Several rejected the panel.
Another former Trump adviser, Peter Navarro, was charged with contempt of Congress in June for refusing a commission deposition. The trial of Navarro is scheduled for November. The Justice Department has chosen not to indict Trump associates Mark Meadows and Daniel Scavino for defying the commission, despite a House vote recommending it. read more
The chief witness to the prosecution was Kristin Amerling, a top committee staffer who testified that Bannon ignored deadlines to respond to last September’s subpoena, sought no reprieve, and offered an invalid reason for his opposition: Trump’s claim of executive privilege.
The Justice Department charged Bannon last November after the Democrat-led House voted to scorn him a month earlier. Bannon was separately charged in 2020 with defrauding donors for a private fundraiser to boost Trump’s project to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. Trump pardoned Bannon before that case went to trial. read more
A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and attacked police with batons, sledgehammers, flagpoles, Taser devices, chemical irritants, metal pipes, rocks, metal guardrails and other weapons in a failed attempt to gain Congressional certification of to block his election loss in 2020. Democrat Joe Biden.
According to the commission, Bannon spoke to Trump at least twice the day before the attack, attended a planning meeting at a Washington hotel and said in his right-wing podcast, “all hell will break loose tomorrow.”
Bannon’s defense argued that he believed the subpoena deadlines were flexible and subject to negotiation. In an 11-hour turnaround with the trial looming, Bannon this month announced a willingness to testify in a public hearing, an offer prosecutors say did not change the fact that he had already broken the law.
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Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham
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