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Bannon trial live updates: Bannon found guilty on both counts

ABC News 7/22/2022
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Steve Bannon, who served as former President Donald Trump's chief strategist before departing the White House in August 2017, is on trial for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Bannon was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 panel for records and testimony in September of last year.

After the House of Representatives voted to hold him in contempt for defying the subpoena, the Justice Department in November charged Bannon with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, setting up this week's trial.

 

Latest Developments

Jul 22, 3:29 PM

Bannon guilty on both counts

Steve Bannon has been found guilty on both counts of criminal contempt of Congress.

Count 1 is for failing to appear for a deposition in October 2021, and carries a maximum sentence of one year behind bars.

Count 2 is for refusing to provide records by the October 2021 deadline. It also carries a maximum one-year sentence.

 
Jul 22, 2:36 PM

Jury reaches verdict

The jury in the contempt trial of Steve Bannon has reached a verdict.

It comes roughly three hours after jury members left the courtroom to begin deliberations.

 
Jul 22, 12:34 PM

Jury begins deliberations after government's rebuttal

The contempt case against Steve Bannon is now in the jury's hands, after the government finished its rebuttal to the defense's closing argument.

Prosecutor Amanda Vaughn began the rebuttal by telling the jury, "The defendant wants to make this hard, difficult, and confusing. They want you to wonder, 'What am I missing?'"

"You're not missing anything," Vaughn said. "There were two witnesses because it's as simple as it seems ... as clear as black and white" on paper, she said.

She said Bannon did tell the committee he would not comply with the subpoena, but "that is not a negotiation." She said the committee repeatedly told Bannon that it rejected his claims and that he had to comply, but Bannon is now defending his actions by saying he had raised objections at the time.

"That is like a child continuing to argue with their parent after they've been grounded. They know they've been grounded, they can argue all they want; it doesn't change the fact that the decision has been made," she said. In this case, she said, the committee made the decision and has the authority to do so.

"This is not a mistake," Vaughn said of Bannon's actions. "It's a choice, it is contempt, and it is a crime."

In this Jan. 28, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, D.C. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images. FILE In this Jan. 28, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, D.C.

She then pushed back on the defense's argument that Bannon's noncompliance can't be "willful" because the committee didn't pursue other options or take the matter to a court, as if the committee "had some sort of obligation" to go to court and "get their permission," she said.

"That's like saying the referee on a soccer field can't make calls on plays unless they go over to the baseball diamond next door and get the umpire's opinion first," Vaughn said. "The committee doesn't answer to former President Trump" -- it's a different branch of government, she said.

As for Bannon's recent "no harm, no foul" argument that he is now willing to testify publicly after Trump sent a letter saying he would waive executive privilege, Vaughn said, "That's not what the evidence in this case shows."

"That sudden decision to comply is nothing but a ploy. And it's not even a good one, because the defendant forgot to tell the committee he would supply them with documents," Vaughn said. Bannon is "pretending to comply now," she said, and "it's a waste of everyone's time."

"The committee told the defendant many times that defiance is a crime, but he didn't listen because he didn't care. He had contempt for them and the public service they're trying to perform," Vaughn said.

"He is guilty," she concluded.

At the conclusion of closing arguments, the judge released the one alternate juror remaining, leaving the 12 jurors to begin deliberations.

 
Jul 22, 12:08 PM

Case against Bannon is a 'rush to judgment,' defense tells jury

Defense attorney Evan Corcoran continued his closing argument by asking the jury to assess each witness's "credibility."

"You need to consider whether a witness has an interest in the outcome of the case, and need to consider whether the witness has a friendship ... with anyone associated with the case," he said.

"The entire foundation of the government's case rests on Ms. Amerling," the Jan. 6 committee staffer, Corcoran said, adding that "of course" she has an interest in the outcome of this case.

He said Amerling "singled out" Bannon and "rushed to judgment," claiming that she filled out the subpoena's "proof of service" form "before it was served."

"Why fill out the proof of service before it was accomplished? That's a reason to doubt the government's case," he said.

He also suggested that Amerling has a political bias, saying that Amerling has been a "staff member aligned with one political party" and donated to Democratic causes.

"Ms. Amerling worked for 20 years for one political party," he said.

Referencing the book club that Amerling and prosecutor Molly Gaston both belong to, Corcoran said that Amerling has a "relationship with the prosecutor," which "raises questions."

"They socialized out of work," Corcoran said, before adding, "Make no mistake, I'm not against book clubs," which drew laughs from those watching in the courtroom.

Corcoran also told the jury that Bannon didn't comply with the subpoena because he believed negotiations with the jury were ongoing. Of the letters between the Jan. 6 committee and Bannon's attorney, Robert Costello, in which the committee repeatedly told Costello that Bannon must comply, Corcoran said, "The government wants you to believe that that's a paper trail to a crime. ... It's two lawyers trying to communicate and negotiate over a legal issue."

As for the deadlines written on the subpoenas, "those dates were placeholders," he said.

Corcoran also said that Bannon's compliance was impacted by concerns over executive privilege.

"He didn't intentionally refuse to comply with the subpoena," Corcoran said. "He clearly, through his attorney, said, 'Let's remove the obstacle to my coming to testify. Let's get rid of the obstacle of executive privilege, and I'll testify, as I've done on several occasions before Congress.'"

Corcoran said that Bannon asked the committee to bring the executive privilege question before a court, and told the committee, "I will abide by the judge's rules."

"This case is not, as the prosecution said, about the need for people to play by the rules," Corcoran said in wrapping up. "This is about Ms. Amerling saying they need to play by her rules."

"Steve Bannon is innocent," Corcoran concluded.

 
Jul 22, 11:46 AM

Defense tells jury the government's case 'should give you pause'

Defense attorney Evan Corcoran began his closing argument by saying, "None of us will soon forget Jan. 6, 2021. It's part of our collective memory."

"But there isn't evidence in this case that Steve Bannon was involved at all," he said. "Steve Bannon is innocent of the crimes with which he's charged."

Telling the jury that there are many "things" that should "give you pause," Corcoran said there is "reason to doubt the government's case."

He made several claims suggesting that the subpoena may not be valid for procedural reasons.

Corcoran said that Jan. 6 committee staffer Kristin Amerling testified that to her knowledge, Bannon, in conjunction with his subpoena, wasn't provided a certain section of the House resolution laying out congressional rules, as required by congressional regulations. "That's a reason for you to doubt the prosecution's case. You must give Steve Bannon the benefit of the doubt," Corcoran said.

The judge, however, interrupted Corcoran and told him to tie his remark to "an issue that's actually been submitted" during trial -- and when the prosecution raised an objection to Corcoran's remarks, he moved on.

Corcoran then noted that Amerling had testified that a committee subpoena is only valid if it's signed by the committee's chairman. He then showed the jury Jan. 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson's signature on letters to then-Bannon attorney Robert Costello, comparing it to Thompson's signature on the subpoena.

"That is the signature on the subpoena, and you could ask yourself if one of those things is different than the other. Because that could be a doubt as to the government's case, a reasonable doubt as to [whether] chairman Thompson signed the subpoena," Corcoran said.

At that point, the judge called for a private sidebar again, and after that Corcoran moved on.

 
Jul 22, 10:57 AM

Bannon chose 'allegiance' to Trump over the law, prosecutor says

During her closing argument, prosecutor Molly Gaston reminded the jury that the judge had told them that to convict Bannon, they must find that he not only failed to comply with the subpoena, but that he did so "willfully" -- not to mean that he did it for an "evil or bad purpose," but that the failure was "deliberate and intentional" and not the result of "inadvertence, accident or mistake."

Gaston insisted that Bannon's decision was "deliberate" and "willful" and that, "the reason for that choice does not matter."

"It does not matter if he refused to comply because his lawyers advised him so," or because he believed a privilege was involved, she said. "As long as the defendant knew that he had been commanded by the subpoena to produce documents and give testimony," then "his belief that he had a good excuse not to comply does not matter. That is not a defense for contempt."

She said this may be "strict," but "in order for the government to function, citizens need to follow the rules. … It is how we all live together in society."

"The defendant chose allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law," Gaston said.

Regarding claims by the defense that Bannon thought the dates "in black and white on the face of that document were not hard deadlines," Gaston said: "Please don't fall for that."

"We are here because the defendant had contempt for Congress," she said. "This is a situation in which the name of the crime tells you everything you need to know: contempt."

Referring to Bannon's defense attorney, Gaston said that "Mr. Corcoran has tried to tell you this case is about politics, but the only person making this case about politics is the defendant, and he is doing it to distract and confuse you. Don't let him."

"There is nothing political about enforcing the law against someone who, like the defendant, flouts it," she said.

"The defendant chose defiance," Gaston said. "Find him guilty."

 
Jul 22, 10:34 AM

Prosecutor tells jury Bannon 'didn't show up'

Prosecutor Molly Gaston began closing arguments by telling the jury, "This case is not complicated, but it is important."

"This is simply a case about a man -- that man, Steve Bannon -- who didn't show up," she said. "Why didn't he show up? He didn't show up because he did not want to, because he did not want to provide the Jan. 6 committee with documents, he did not want to answers its questions, and when it really comes down to it, he did not want to recognize Congress' authority or play by the government's rules."

"So why is this case important?" Gaston said. "It is important because 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. And in this case, when the defendant deliberately chose to defy a congressional subpoena, that was a crime."

Calling Jan. 6 "a dark day in our nation's history" that included "violence against law enforcement" and efforts to disrupt the "peaceful transfer of power," Gaston said Congress created the Jan. 6 committee to "make sense of it" and to "make sure that it never happens again."

Regarding the subpoena that the committee sent Bannon, she said, "This document is not hard to understand. It tells the defendant what he is required to do, and when he is required to do it."

"The defendant did not produce a single document," Gaston said. "Was that a mistake? No, that was intentional."

She recited the back-and-forth correspondence between Bannon's then-lawyer, Robert Costello, and the committee, in which Bannon claimed that executive privilege "completely exempted him" and the committee repeatedly said that it "rejected" that claim and warned Bannon that he could face prosecution for contempt of Congress.

She noted that the privilege that Bannon claimed "could not possibly cover everything" that the committee was asking for, and that Bannon "made clear" in a social media post that "he was defying the committee to -- quote -- 'stand with Trump.'"

"This is the defendant celebrating his defiance," Gaston said. "And this shows the defendant knew that the subpoena required him to produce documents."

"This was not a mistake," Gaston said, telling the jury "he ignored" the subpoena.

 
Jul 22, 10:04 AM

Closing arguments get underway

Closing arguments are underway, after Judge Nichols gave the jury instructions for deliberations.

Regarding Bannon's decision not to testify in the case, Nichols specifically told the jury: "You must not hold this decision against him, and it would be improper to speculate as to the reasons."

"You must not assume the defendant is guilty because he chose not to testify," the judge said.

The government will first make its closing argument, then the defense will make its closing argument, followed by a shorter rebuttal by the government.

 
Jul 22, 10:07 AM

Defense concerned about impact of Jan. 6 hearing as trial resumes

As court resumed Friday morning for expected closing arguments, Bannon's defense team filed a "notice" to Judge Carl Nichols expressing concern over last night's prime-time Jan. 6 committee hearing and its "possible impact on the jury," calling a segment in the hearing "highly inflammatory."

The notice says that last night's hearing "included a feature segment on the Defendant Stephen K. Bannon of a particularly inflammatory nature." It's referring to audio of Bannon that was played at about 10:38 p.m. ET in which Bannon can be heard days before the 2020 presidential election saying that even if Trump loses the election, "Trump will declare victory," and there will be a "firestorm."

Bannon's defense team asked the judge to ask jurors whether they watched or heard about that segment, or the hearing in general.

Former White House senior strategist Steve Bannon arrives at the Federal District Court House for the fifth day of his contempt of Congress trial, July 22, 2022, in Washington, D.C. © Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images Former White House senior strategist Steve Bannon arrives at the Federal District Court House for the fifth day of his contempt of Congress trial, July 22, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

"[T]here should be some inquiry, while assuring the jurors of the importance of candor and that they will not suffer negative consequences if they acknowledge exposure to the broadcast or its subject," the team's filing said.

"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 of was made aware of it in some manner," it said.

The jury has been brought into the courtroom for today's proceedings, and so far there has been no mention of the defense team's latest filing.

News coverage of the Jan. 6 committee has been an ongoing concern for both the defense team and prosecutors throughout this case. At the request of prosecutors, Judge Nichols reminded the jury not to watch or read about last night's hearing before he sent the jury home last night.

 
Jul 21, 4:39 PM

Bannon says he's testified 'more than anybody else' in administration

Leaving the courthouse after the day in court, Bannon told reporters that -- despite his decision not to testify in his trial on the advice of counsel -- he has no compunction about testifying.

"Make sure everybody understands, of any person in the Trump administration, Stephen K. Bannon has testified," Bannon said, referring to his earlier testimony as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and a parallel investigation by the House Intelligence Committee at the time.

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, DC. © Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images 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, DC.

"Thirty hours in the Mueller Commission ... 20 hours in front of the House Intelligence Committee ... I think over 50 hours of testimony," Bannon said.

"Every single time, more than anybody else in the Trump administration," he said.

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