Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks to reporters as he leaves the Federal District Court House at the end of the fourth day of his trial for contempt of Congress on July 21, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Steve Bannon was just found guilty on both counts of criminal contempt of Congress for failing to answer a subpoena from the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6. The verdict, returned by a Washington, D.C., jury Friday afternoon, could send the firebrand political adviser and longtime ally of former President Donald Trump to prison for up to two years if the judge decides to throw the book at him.
Each of the two misdemeanor counts carries a minimum sentence of 30 days. Lawyers watching the trial had predicted Bannon would have nowhere to hide from the relatively straightforward case against him, even before the one-week trial kicked off Monday. The jury evidently agreed, taking less than a single day to reach their final verdict. Bannon had refused to answer a Congressional subpoena for testimony and documents from the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, arguing that Trump had bound his hands by asserting executive privilege, a legal principle under which internal White House conversations may be labeled confidential. Yet the judge barred Bannon from arguing that he hadn’t complied because he thought he had executive privilege as a defense at the trial. Being confused about the law wasn’t a legally acceptable defense in a contempt of Congress trial, Judge Carl Nichols ruled. And prosecutors presented evidence to the judge, before the trial started, that Trump’s lawyer stated that Trump had never actually asserted the privilege in the first place, as would have been necessary.Instead, Bannon’s team sought to raise clouds of confusion about basic pieces of evidence in the case, including whether the subpoena deadlines were actually up for discussion (despite being clearly legible on the documents and set for mid-October 2021). Bannon’s team also tried to cast doubt on whether the subpoenas had been signed by Democratic Jan. 6 committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, even though they bore his signature. But Judge Nichols shut down that line of argument and told the jury to ignore it.Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.