Attorney David Schoen (L) and Steve Bannon, former adviser to Donald Trump, address the media after Bannon was found guilty of contempt of Congress in federal court in Washington on Friday. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo
Former White House adviser Steve Bannon was convicted Friday on two counts of contempt of Congress after ignoring a subpoena to testify and provide documents for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Sentencing for Bannon, a close adviser to former President Donald Trump, is set for Oct. 21. Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year incarceration and as much as a $100,000 fine. A federal grand jury indicted Bannon nearly a year ago for defying the congressional committee subpoena.
The panel seeks to question him about discussions he had with Trump in the days before the violent insurrection in which radical supporters stormed the Capitol as lawmakers were voting to certify the 2020 election.
Bannon told listeners of his radio show on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
While Bannon had publicly mocked the subpoena and attempted to claim executive privilege, his attorneys claimed at trial that he had not intentionally ignored the subpoena and called no witnesses.
The jury deliberated for three hours before returning the conviction.
“I want to thank the jury. I have one disappointment and that’s that the gutless members of that show-trial committee didn’t have the guts to come here and testify in court,” Bannon said to reporters outside the courthouse.
“The overreaching of the government in this case has been shameful on every level,” Bannon defense lawyer David Schoen told reporters. “There are issues for appeal in this case that are astounding.”
He said only the courts, not Congress, can be the arbiters of executive privilege claimed by a former or sitting president.
Bannon’s attorneys closed their defense Thursday without calling any witnesses — not even Bannon.
During closing arguments on Friday, prosecutors asserted Bannon chose allegiance to Trump over compliance with the law, though his defense attorneys say he didn’t actually refuse to comply with anything.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston told jurors Bannon didn’t show up because he did not want to provide the committee with documents or answer its questions. She said when it really comes down to it, Bannon “did not recognize Congress’s authority or play by the government’s rules.”
Gaston said during her closing argument that as long as Bannon knew he had been commanded to testify and provide documents by the subpoena it doesn’t matter that he believed he had a good excuse for failing to comply.
“The defendant chose allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law,” she said.
Gaston also told the jury that there is nothing political about enforcing the law against someone who flouts it.
The defense team called the subpoena politically motivated and said Bannon understood deadlines it contained as points to negotiate.
“He didn’t intentionally refuse to comply with anything,” Bannon’s lawyers said.
Another former Trump aide, Peter Navarro, has also been indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress in the investigation.
Chilling radio traffic reveals terror of Pence security detail in Jan. 6 attack