Donald Trump’s former adviser, Steve Bannon, has been found guilty of contempt of Congress after refusing to appear before the US Capitol riots hearing.
Bannon was charged with two counts of criminal contempt – each carrying up to a year in jail. He will be sentenced in October.
Outside the courtroom, he said he respected the jury’s decision but that he would appeal.
“We may have lost the battle here today, but we are not going to lose the war,” he said, adding: “I stand with Trump and the Constitution (of the United States) and I will never back off that.”
The prosecution had argued Bannon wilfully ignored clear and explicit deadlines given to him to appear, but his defence claimed throughout that he believed those details had been “flexible and subject to negotiation”.
The case was the first successful prosecution for contempt of Congress since 1974, when a judge found a conspirator in the Watergate scandal – that prompted President Richard Nixon’s resignation – guilty.
The Democratic-led House of Representative select committee had subpoenaed Bannon, 68, and requested testimony and documents from him, as part of its inquiry into the 6 January 2021 rampage by Trump supporters trying to undo the Republican’s 2020 election defeat.
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But prosecutor Molly Gaston told jurors at the courthouse in Washington DC that Bannon thought the inquiry was “beneath him”.
“There is nothing political about finding out why Jan 6 happened and making sure it never happens again,” she said.
“The defendant made a deliberate decision not to comply and that, ladies and gentlemen, is contempt. It is a crime.”
Bannon’s lawyers argued requesting their client to appear at the inquiry was political, as there was “no evidence” he had been involved in the insurrection.
Evan Corcoran told jurors: “The question is: Why? Why was Steve Bannon singled out? I ask you if this was in any way affected by politics?”
And Mr Corcoran had tried to portray the key prosecution witness, senior committee staff member Kristin Amerling, as politically motivated.
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Ms Gaston told the court the 6 January Capitol attack represented a “dark day” for America, and Bannon, both a key Trump strategist and an influential figure on the American right, had shown disdain for Congress.
Bannon was first an adviser to Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, then served as his chief White House
strategist during 2017 before a falling out between the two that was later patched up.
On the morning of the riots, thousands of Trump supporters – inspired by an incendiary speech he had just given near the White House in which he repeated claims he had been denied a second term due to voter fraud – marched to the Capitol building that houses the US seat of government.
The Capitol was in session at the time, overseeing the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election win.
A large group breached barriers at pedestrian entrances to the building’s grounds. Several also entered the Capitol building itself after a mob smashed windows and forced open doors.
More than 100 police officers were injured in the chaos.
The House panel is now investigating the events of that day.
Source : Sky.com