Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former US president Donald Trump has been convicted of contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol.
- The prosecution stated that Bannon willfully ignored clear and explicit deadlines
- Each count of contempt is punishable by 30 days to one year behind bars as well as a large fine
- Sentencing is set down for October 21
A jury found Bannon, 68, guilty of two misdemeanour counts for refusing to provide testimony or documents to the House of Representatives select committee as it scrutinises the January 6, 2021, rampage by Trump supporters who tried to up-end the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Each contempt of Congress count is punishable by 30 days to one year behind bars, as well as a fine of $US100 to $US100,000 ($145 to $145,000).
US District Judge Carl Nichols set a sentencing date of October 21.
Bannon was a key adviser to Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign as the Republican candidate, then served as his chief White House strategist during 2017 before a falling out between the two that was later patched up. Bannon also has played an instrumental role in right-wing media.
He had initially argued that his testimony was protected by Mr Trump’s claim of executive privilege.
But the House panel and the Justice Department contend such a claim is dubious because Mr 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 January 6, 2021.
Bannon’s lawyers tried to argue during the trial that he didn’t refuse to cooperate and that the dates “were in flux”.
They pointed to the fact that Bannon had reversed course shortly before the trial kicked off — after Mr Trump waived his objection — and had offered to testify before the committee.
In closing arguments on Friday morning (local time), both sides re-emphasised their primary positions from the trial.
The prosecution maintained that Bannon willfully ignored clear and explicit deadlines, and the defence claimed Bannon believed those deadlines were flexible and subject to negotiation.
Bannon’s attorney Evan Corcoran told jurors on Friday in his closing arguments that those deadlines were mere “placeholders” while lawyers on each side negotiated terms.
Mr Corcoran said the committee “rushed to judgement” because it “wanted to make an example of Steve Bannon”.
The defence on Thursday motioned for an acquittal, saying the prosecution had not proved its case.
In making his motion for acquittal before Judge Nichols, Bannon’s attorney Mr Corcoran said “no reasonable juror could conclude that Mr Bannon refused to comply”.