Bannon Found Guilty of Defying Congressional Subpoena
WASHINGTON — A jury in Washington, D.C., Friday found former Trump White House Adviser Stephen K. Bannon guilty on two counts of contempt of Congress after refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon, 68, faces up to two years in prison and $200,000 in fines. The jury in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia deliberated for nearly three hours.
Bannon was the first associate of former President Donald Trump to be tried in federal court. His attorney said he would appeal.
Other Trump White House staff members defied the House committee’s subpoenas but have not yet had their cases reach trials.
The subpoena for Bannon sought his testimony and records of any communications with Trump and his staff relevant to the attack. Bannon invoked the executive privilege of the presidency to defy the subpoena.
The Constitution grants the president and his staff an immunity from prosecution and congressional review to ensure they can carry out their duties without risk of political reprisal.
The Justice Department argued successfully in court that executive privilege would not protect Bannon or other White House staff members if Congress could show a legislative need for their information.
The House committee expressed an interest in knowing the source of information for Bannon’s prediction on his Jan. 5, 2021, podcast that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day. Lawmakers also wanted to question Bannon about his conversations with Trump about his efforts to remain in the presidency after losing the 2020 election.
An audio recording that surfaced through the online newsletter Mother Jones showed Bannon telling his associates before the election that Trump planned to declare victory even if he lost to cast doubt on the integrity of the voting process.
During the trial, prosecutors called only two witnesses, namely a congressional staff member and an FBI agent. They testified that Bannon knew about the subpoena but chose not to respond to it.
During closing arguments Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston said, “The defendant chose allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law.”
Bannon’s attorneys called no witnesses but tried to portray him in closing arguments as being a victim of political reprisal by Trump’s opponents. They also made a questionable allegation that the signature on the subpoena from the House committee’s chairman was forged.
Prosecutors responded that political reprisal was not the issue, only that the House committee was trying to uncover facts leading to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.
Bannon said to the media as he left court after being found guilty, “I stand with Trump and the Constitution and I will never back off that, ever.”
His attorney, David Schoen, said the prosecution overlooked the importance of the presidency’s executive privilege.
“That’s not how our constitutional structure works,” Schoen said. “It’s presumptively valid. Period. It’s not for Congress to decide it’s not valid.”
A second Trump aide, Peter Navarro, is scheduled for trial in November on contempt charges. He has pleaded not guilty.