A federal jury on Friday found Steve Bannon—who served as former President Donald Trump’s chief strategist—guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.
“The subpoena to Stephen Bannon was not an invitation that could be rejected or ignored,” said Matthew M. Graves, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, in a statement. “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.”
After two days of hearings and less than three hours of deliberations, the jury unanimously decided Bannon was guilty of refusal to appear for a deposition and refusal to produce documents. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols scheduled his sentencing for October 21.
The Washington Post reports that “each of the two misdemeanor charges is punishable by at least 30 days and up to one year in jail. But such prosecutions are rare, and no one has been incarcerated for contempt of Congress in more than half a century, since the red-baiting trials of the Cold War era.”
According to CNN:
Bannon had come into the courtroom before the jury reassembled in a relatively buoyant mood. He threw his face mask down on the table as soon as he arrived, then sat on his phone for several minutes, a few times showing his lawyer a message.
Once the jury assembled, and before the verdict was read, he had one hand bracing the table, and glanced at the jurors just a few times, primarily watching the judge. He smiled and smirked after the verdict was read, and then patted his lawyers on back.
Bannon told reporters outside the courthouse that “we may have lost the battle here today, but we’re not going to lose the war,” and his attorney, Doug Schoen, vowed to appeal the verdict.
The guilty verdict was widely anticipated. Bill Blum wrote for The Progressive earlier this week that “ordinarily, I wouldn’t take pleasure in the prospect of anyone doing time, as our penal institutions are shamelessly overcrowded and do little in the way of rehabilitation or deterrence to lower our outrageously high crime rates.”
“But apart from Trump himself, there might not be any other person more deserving of a stint in the pokey than Bannon, the loud-mouthed propagandist, and podcaster who led Trump’s 2016 political campaign to victory, and subsequently served as the disgraced ex-president’s chief strategist and senior counselor for nearly eight months in 2017,” he added.
Noting that former Trump aide Peter Navarro has a similar trial set to begin on November 17, Blum suggested that victories in both cases may even encourage U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland “to find his spine and prosecute Trump for attempting to overthrow what remains of our damaged democracy.”
The Friday verdict prompted calls for action against others by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
“Bannon is the tip of the insurrectionist iceberg,” said U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.). “More must be held accountable.”
Referencing the set of public select committee hearings that wrapped up Thursday evening, Grijalva declared that it’s time for the DOJ “to act on the evidence and indict Trump and his Republican conspirators for attempting a violent coup.”
Liz Cheney played an audio clip of Steve Bannon from Oct. 31, 2020, saying that Donald Trump planned to declare victory following the election, no matter what the facts were.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 22, 2022
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a professor at University of California, Berkeley, said Friday that “accountability is crucial, but with or without Bannon, his plan to subvert our elections lives on: Him and other Trump cronies have been focused on electing Trump loyalists in this fall’s midterms—so that in 2024 only his supporters will be certifying elections.”
“By installing Trump loyalists as secretaries of state, Bannon and Trump have been plotting to take over the machinery of our democracy from the ground up,” he added. “Be warned.”
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