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Steve Bannon guilty of both counts of contempt of Congress

A federal jury convicted former White House strategist Steve Bannon of two counts of contempt of Congress Friday after less than three hours of deliberation.

The 68-year-old now faces a minimum of 60 days in prison and a maximum of two years behind bars, as well as a fine of up to $2,000. His sentencing was set for Oct. 21.

At issue was Bannon’s refusal to comply with a subpoena last fall from the House select committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot.

At the time, the former Breitbart boss maintained he was protected by former President Donald Trump’s claim of executive privilege – despite having been fired from his position at the White House in August 2017. 

Before the case was handed over to the jury Friday afternoon, Bannon’s legal team made one final attempt at a dismissal, requesting that US District Judge Carl Nichols ask jurors if they had watched the Jan. 6 committee’s primetime hearing the night before. 

“The nature and substance of the segment present a significant cause for concern regarding possible prejudice to Mr. Bannon’s constitutional fair trial rights and right to a jury trial if a juror viewed the segment or was made aware of it in some manner,” his legal team wrote. 

During Thursday’s hearing, the House select committee highlighted remarks by Bannon about former President Donald Trump’s post-election strategy, which was to declare victory even if he wasn’t the winner. 

In his closing arguments, Bannon’s attorney Evan Corcoran continued to insist that the subpoena deadlines outlined by the Jan. 6 committee in the fall were only “placeholders,” as lawyers on both sides were negotiating the final terms of cooperation. 

Corcoran accused the committee of rushing “to judgment” in order to “make an example of Steve Bannon.” 

The lawyer also attempted to prove that one of the prosecution’s two witnesses, chief counsel to the Jan. 6 committee Kristin Amerling, was biased in her testimony.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the government accused the defense of overcomplicating a very simple case. 

“The defense wants to make this hard, difficult, and confusing,” Assistant US Attorney Amanda Vaughn said. “This is not difficult. This is not hard. There were only two witnesses because it’s as simple as it seems.” 

A day before, Bannon’s team opted against mounting a defense or calling any witnesses – including Bannon himself. 

That decision stemmed from previous rulings by Nichols that barred the defense from advancing several arguments, including that Bannon ignored the subpoena on the advice of his counsel or at Trump’s direction.

Another one of Bannon’s lawyers, David Schoen, told the court that because of the rulings, Bannon “understands that he would be barred from telling the true facts.” 

Days before the trial got underway, Bannon reversed course and told the committee he would testify, claiming that Trump had waived executive privilege for him. 

However, federal prosecutors have insisted Trump never invoked the privilege to keep Bannon from testifying in the first place.

Friday’s ruling sets a major precedent for Congress’ ability to punish witnesses who refuse to comply with House subpoenas. 

So far, only one other former Trump aide – trade adviser Peter Navarro – has been indicted after ignoring a Jan. 6 committee subpoena. Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Navarro revealed he turned down a plea offer that would have required him to plead guilty.

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