A jury found former Trump White House aide Steve Bannon guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress in a misdemeanor charge Friday after less than three hours of deliberation.
The former Trump advisor now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days incarceration and up to two years behind bars. He could also face a fine of up to $1,000. A sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 21.
The jury came to the conclusion after prosecutors and defense wrapped up their closing arguments Friday. The trial lasted one week and featured only two witnesses.
Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors told the jury that ignoring a congressional subpoena is like ignoring a parking ticket. DOJ prosecutor Molly Gaston said that with a parking ticket, there are two options: show up to court and try to fight it or pay it.
‘What he doesn’t get to do is ignore the order to pay it,’ Gaston said, noting that if you don’t pay a ticket or show up for a subpoena, there are consequences.
She argued that Bannon’s excuse that he thought he was barred from testifying due to former President Trump asserting executive privilege did not carry weight.
Gaston said that Bannon made an ‘intentional’ choice not to cooperate and cited quotes Bannon made to DailyMail.com in December when he said he would not be cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee subpoena for testimony. ‘I stand with Trump and the Constitution,’ Bannon said at the time.
‘His belief that he had an excuse not to comply does not matter, that is not a defense to contempt,’ she said. ‘He has contempt for our system of government and he does not think he needs to play by its rules.’
‘The defendant chose defiance, find him guilty,’ Gaston told jurors.
The defense, meanwhile, accused the case of being politically motivated and accused a witness brought in by the prosecution of political bias.
Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran first tried to poke holes in the case itself, saying that the subpoena may not have been signed by Jan. 6 committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson himself. He said the signature on the subpoena looks sloppier than Thompson’s signature on other documents, and may not be ‘legitimate.’
Corcoran then moved to the potential bias of DOJ witness, Kristin Amerling, a House Select Committee staffer who worked on the subpoena and the committee’s responses to Bannon.
Corcoran pointed out that Amerling had been in a bookclub with one of the DOJ’s prosecutors.
‘That would make you question whether they’re impartial…and that’s a reasonable doubt,’ Corcoran told the jury.
He then again hit home on what he was the alleged political bias of the trial.
‘We come to our political views honestly … no one should … face a criminal prosecution … based on politics,’ he said. ‘Politics can play no role.’
Bannon’s legal team rested its case on Thursday after the former Donald Trump adviser refused to testify in his own defense for criminal contempt of Congress charges.
As he left a Washington, DC court on the summer afternoon, Bannon told reporters that he had testified more than any other Trump aide when factoring time spent speaking to investigators who looked at Russia’s potential links to the Trump 2016 campaign and efforts to influence the election.
He parted ways with the press with the message, ‘One last thing: I stand with Trump and the Constitution.’
Bannon’s lawyers called no witnesses on his behalf, and District Judge Carl Nichols dismissed the 14 men and women who make up the jury a short while later.
One female juror was dismissed due to a noncontagious medical issue, according to the Washington Post.
That means Friday will bring closing arguments, jury instruction and deliberations – and potentially a speedy verdict.
He’d previously promised to make his criminal trial the ‘misdemeanor from hell’ for the Justice Department.
‘Of any person in the Trump administration, Stephen K. Bannon has testified, what, 30 hours in front of the Mueller commission, I think 20 hours in front of Schiff in the House Intelligence commission- House Intelligence Committee,’ Bannon told reporters Thursday.
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