WASHINGTON: A federal jury on Friday found Steve Bannon, an advisor to former US President Donald Trump, guilty of two counts of criminal contempt of Congress. Jail terms and fines will be determined during sentencing, which is scheduled for October 21. Bannon faces between 30 days to one year behind bars and a fine of $100 to $100,000 for each count.
The trial lasted less than a week; it started on Monday, the US attorney and defence up their arguments on Thursday and the jurors returned the guilty verdict on Friday.
"This case is not complicated, but it is important," Assistant US Attorney Molly Gaston told jurors during closing arguments on Friday. She argued, that "he did not want to recognise Congress' authority" or play by the government's rules.
Bannon was on trial for defying a subpoena from a congressional select committee investigating the January 6 riots at the US Capitol by hordes of Trump supporters who wanted to prevent Congress from certifying the election of Joe Biden as President in the November 2020 elections.
The select committee, which held its eighth public hearing on Thursday, had ordered Bannon to, one, depose before it and, two, submit documents it had sought.Bannon did neither.
Despite having left the Trump administration in 2017 as senior advisor to President Trump, he had claimed the cover of Trump's executive privilege to defy the subpoena. The committee rejected his plea and referred the case to the department of justice to determine if he needed to be prosecuted. He was indicted in February on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress.
Just ahead of the start of the trial, though, Bannon dropped his defiance and offered to testify. Trump also gave him a letter granting him exemption from executive privilege. But the select committee rejected his offer and the court refused to stop or delay the trial.
The select committee's interest in Bannon stemmed from a perception that he may have played a role in the planning and executing of the January 6 insurrection.
Bannon had infamously predicted the January 6 riots. "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow," Bannon had said on a right-wing radio talk show on January 5, the day before. A clip from that show was played by the select committee of the House of Representatives at a hearing in July. "It's all converging, and now we're on, as they say, the point of attack," he had added. (IANS)