Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to Donald Trump, was found guilty of contempt of Congress stemming from his refusal to comply with a subpoena by the January 6th Committee.
He faces a minimum jail sentence of 30 days. He also could face a fine of up to $100,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21.
Not until this month did Bannon say that he would talk to the committee. But prosecutors said that was too late for the trial, as he had already missed key deadlines for complying with the subpoena.
Bannon, a Hollywood film producer in the 1990s who then pursued politics via documentaries and at Brietbart.com, said that he planned to appeal.
“I only have one disappointment, and that is the gutless members of that show trial committee, the [January 6th] Committee, didn’t have the guts to testify in open court,” Bannon told reporters outside the federal courthouse in Washington.
The committee on Thursday played an audio from Oct. 31, 2020, in which Bannon talked of Trump’s plans to “just declare victory.” “But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just going to say he’s a winner.” The audio was first released by Mother Jones.
In its subpoena, the committee cited Bannon’s comments the day before the siege on the Capitol, when he said on his podcast, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
The committee has been trying to show how the attack on the Capitol was pre-meditated, not some random event.
Bannon had challenged the subpoenas last year on the grounds that Trump had asserted executive privilege. But the committee and prosecutors pointed out that Bannon left the White House in 2017, and has been a private citizen since then.
In its resolution last recommending the contempt charge, the January 6th Committee said that Bannon “appears to have had multiple roles relevant to this investigation, including his role in constructing and participating in the ‘stop the steal’ public relations effort that motivated the attack, his efforts to plan political and other activity in advance of January 6th, and his participation in the events of that day from a ‘war room’ organized at the Willard InterContinental Washington D.C. Hotel.” The committee has since revealed during their hearings that Bannon talked to Trump twice on January 5.
Outside the court, Bannon, wearing his trademark outfit of multiple button down shirts, said that “we’ll respect the decision” of the jury. “We may have lost a battle here today but we are not going to lose this war,” he said.
His attorney, David Schoen, said that prosecutors put forward a closing argument “that completely tears asunder the constitutional principle of separation of powers.” He argued that “when a former president or a current president invokes executive privilege, it’s presumptively valid, period. It’s not for Congress to decide that it is not valid.”
Bannon’s trial lasted just a couple of days, and Bannon’s team did not call any witnesses in their case. The jury began its deliberations late on Friday morning before reaching a verdict around 2 PM ET.
“The subpoena to Stephen Bannon was not an invitation that could be rejected or ignored,” said Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. “Mr. Bannon had an obligation to appear before the House Select Committee to give testimony and provide documents. His refusal to do so was deliberate and now a jury has found that he must pay the consequences.”
The January 6th Committee released a statement saying, “The conviction of Steve Bannon is a victory for the rule of law and an important affirmation of the Select Committee’s work. As the prosecutor stated, Steve Bannon ‘chose allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the 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.”