This story is breaking and will be updated
July 22, 2022 2:04 p.m
Published: July 22, 2022 2:04 p.m
Originally published: 22 JUL 22 2:51 PM ET
Updated: 22 JUL 22 2:57 PM ET
By Tierney Sneed, Katelyn Polantz and Holmes Lybrand, CNN
(CNN) – A federal jury has found former Trump adviser Steve Bannon guilty of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack.
The conviction is a victory for the Jan. 6 House select committee as it continues to seek the cooperation of reluctant witnesses in its landmark investigation. It’s also a victory for the Justice Department, which is under intense scrutiny for its approach to matters related to the Jan. 6 attack.
After nearly two days of hearing evidence and testimony, the jury reached a unanimous verdict in less than three hours. Bannon smiled as the verdict was read.
Bannon’s team didn’t mount a defense, and he didn’t take the stand.
Bannon was indicted by a federal grand jury in November after he skipped October deadlines to produce the documents and testimony the committee had subpoenaed.
In demanding his cooperation, the committee had pointed to Bannon’s contacts with Trump before the storming of the Capitol, his presence in the so-called war room of Trump allies at the Willard Hotel in Washington the day before the riots and a prediction. he said on his podcast before the riot that “all hell” was going to “break loose.”
“In short, Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people have a right to hear his firsthand testimony about his actions,” the commission’s report the House recommends a resolution of contempt against said he. The House voted to hold Bannon in contempt in October.
Bannon is one of two uncooperative witnesses so far indicted by the Justice Department for contempt of Congress. Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro was indicted by a grand jury last month for failing to comply with a committee subpoena and has pleaded not guilty.
In closing arguments Friday, the Justice Department told the jury that the case was “not complicated” but that it was “important.”
“This is a simple case about a man, this man, who didn’t come forward,” said prosecutor Molly Gaston. Bannon, he argued, “didn’t want to recognize the authority of Congress or play by the rules of government.”
Bannon’s team argued in closing that the jury had reason to doubt the case, suggesting the government’s key witness was not impartial.
“Mr. Bannon was not in a position to testify” for the committee, his lawyer Evan Corcoran told the jury, pointing to statements Trump had made about executive privilege in the House investigation.
When the House committee asked for his cooperation, Bannon’s lawyer claimed that Trump’s stated claims of executive privilege prevented Bannon from testifying or making arguments, an argument the committee roundly rejected. The lawmakers noted that Bannon had not been a government official for years, though they noted his interest in subject areas that did not involve conversations with Trump.
At trial, however, Bannon’s arguments about executive privilege were not a central focus, even as his lawyers found ways to draw attention to the issue. They did so in the face of the judgments of the judge who considered it largely irrelevant, under precedent of appeal, to the elements of the crime of contempt.
Executive Privilege and Deadline Debate
How discussions of executive privilege should have figured into the trial process will be a question Bannon presses if he appeals the conviction. Bannon’s team also made several arguments for the trial record why he should have been allowed to put Select Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson and other committee members on the stand to testify. The judge refused to allow Bannon to call them to the stand because of a House request to block his testimony, citing constitutional restrictions on when lawmakers can be subpoenaed.
During the trial, the Justice Department put a House staff member on the stand who testified about various communications between the committee and Bannon’s lawyer about the subpoenas, and the House’s demands to comply in the deadlines indicated. Prosecutors’ second witness was an FBI agent who testified briefly about Bannon’s social media posts sharing articles describing his misconduct.
In an attempt to undermine his testimony, the defense sought to cast doubt that the terms of the subpoena were firm, that the subpoena was properly issued, and that the social media posts expressed Bannon’s views. However, neither Bannon nor his attorney to deal with the committee took the stand. Bannon’s lawyer read a statement from Bannon in court in which Bannon said he had been “very eager” to testify “since the day he was indicted,” but that the judge’s rulings limiting his lines of defense would mean that he would not be able to explain “the real facts” if he took the stand. The jury was not present for this statement.
This story is breaking and will be updated.
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