Jury Begins Deliberations on Contempt Charges in Bannon Trial

WASHINGTON — Lawyers sparred in closing arguments on Friday in the trial of Stephen K. Bannon, a onetime adviser to President Donald J. Trump, who faces two contempt of Congress charges after ignoring a subpoena to supply information to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

A jury will now decide whether Mr. Bannon is guilty of misdemeanor crimes punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year in prison. Mr. Bannon, who left the White House in 2017, is the first member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle to be brought to trial in a case stemming from the investigation into the Capitol attack.

TheJan. 6 committee has said that Mr. Bannon is crucial to their inquiry because of his proximity to Mr. Trump and a statement he made on Jan. 5, 2021, when he said “all hell” would break loose, appearing to foretell the violence that erupted the day Congress was set to certify the results of the 2020 election.

In closing arguments, the prosecution painted a sober picture of the Capitol riot to emphasize the importance of the committee’s work. Mr. Bannon not only blurred the subpoena, lawyers said, but he also usurped the government’s authority because he believed Congress “was beneath him.”

“We are here because the defendant had contempt for Congress,” said Molly Gaston, a lawyer for the prosecution. “This is a situation in which the name of the crime tells you everything you need to know.”

Mr. Bannon received clear instructions from the committee about how to comply with the subpoena and was warned about the consequences of not doing so, Ms. Gaston said. Yet he failed to produce documents, provide testimony or negotiate with the committee, she said, and offered invalid excuses for why he could not cooperate.

The government, prosecutors said, “only works when people play by the rules. And it only works if people are held accountable when they don’t.”

“The defendant chose allegiance with Donald Trump over compliance with the law,” Ms. Gaston added. “The defendant thing defiance.”

The defense countered by portraying the events of Jan. 6 as irrelevant to the case and instead tried to poke technical holes in the prosecution’s argument, arguing that the deadlines to comply with the subpoena were not fixed. A lawyer for Mr. Bannon, M. Evan Corcoran, contended that one of the government’s witnesses, Kristin Amerling, the Jan. committee’s chief counsel, was biased given that she and Ms. Gaston had been in the same book club.

“You have to give Steve Bannon the benefit of the doubt,” Mr. Corcoran said.

Mr. Corcoran reiterated that the case was tainted by partisanship, saying that Ms. Amerling was politically motivated because she had spent years working for Democrats in Congress. He also cast the charge as an overreach by people with political power, but the judge stopped him as he tried to make a broader point that the legislative branch and presidency are controlled by Democrats.

The closing arguments came hours after the Jan. 6 committee held a public hearing that included audio of Mr. Bannon, days before the 2020 election, describing how Mr. Trump would spread the false claim of a stolen contest.

“He’s going to declare victory,” Mr. Bannon said in a recording that was made public last week by mother jones. “But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just going to say he’s a winner.”

On Thursday, the defense asked the judge to acquit Mr. Bannon and opted not to bring witnesses or evidence before jurors, relying instead on its cross-examinations of the prosecution’s two witnesses. Mr. Bannon also chose not to testify, a departure from the defense’s suggestion last week that he would.

Of the former White House officials the committee sought to charge with contempt, the Justice Department brought charges against Mr. Bannon and another former adviser to Mr. Trump, Peter Navarro, who had resisted their subpoenas from the start and never negotiated with the committee.

It is unclear when the jury will reach a verdict. Jurors were instructed to stay open-minded, but during juror selection on Monday, a member of the jury pool speculated aloud about the outcome of the case.

“Contempt seems pretty straightforward,” she said.

Leave a Comment