Right-wing podcast host, layered-shirt lover, and longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress over his refusal, last year, to provide documents and testimony to the January 6 committee. Bannon’s brief trial began on Tuesday, and the jury delivered a verdict on Friday afternoon after about two and a half hours of deliberations.
Bannon’s lawyers repeatedly tried to delay the trial, citing the possible influence the January 6 committee’s televised hearings could have on jurors, but Judge Carl Nichols refused their requests. Nichols also ruled out several possible defenses Bannon’s legal team had put forward in pretrial motions, including Bannon’s long-standing false assertion that Donald Trump had claimed executive privilege over his testimony and documents. Earlier this month, Bannon conspicuously made a Trump-backed offer to publicly testify before the January 6 committee, but the Justice Department dismissed the proposal as a “last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability” as the trial loomed.
Federal prosecutors — who argued at the beginning of the trial that Bannon “decided he was above the law” when he chose not to comply with the committee’s subpoenas — ultimately called only two witnesses. Bannon’s team, which declined to put on a defense and argued that the trial was politically motivated, called none.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston said in her closing argument on Friday that the case was “not complicated, but it is important” since Bannon “did not want to recognize Congress’s authority” and chose allegiance to Trump over the law. She cited Bannon telling the Daily Mail that “I stand with Trump and the Constitution” after receiving the congressional subpoenas last year and told jurors that “our government only works if people show up. It only works if people play by the rules, and it only works if people are held accountable when they do not.”
Bannon’s sentencing is scheduled for October 21, when the 68-year-old faces anywhere from 60 days to two years in prison (a mandatory minimum of 30 days, up to one year, for each count) as well as a $100 to $100,000 fine. The Washington Post points out that much of the Bannon team’s trial strategy seemed to be laying the groundwork for a future appeal. If Bannon does end up serving time, he will be the first person to have gone to prison for contempt of Congress since the 1950s. But he will definitely not face the death penalty.