In an op-ed published at Cafe this Friday, legal expert Elie Honig writes that Steve Bannon's trial for contempt of Congress "wasn’t as much of a joyride as he had hoped."
"Leading up to the trial, Bannon went hogwild, using his indictment as a launching point for all manner of disjointed rants against Democrats, and DOJ, and the January 6 Committee. He pronounced that his case would be the 'misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.' I’ll hand it to Bannon here: 'misdemeanor from hell' is a punchy turn of phrase (though what the heck do Pelosi or Biden have to do with anything?). I won’t do Bannon the favor of reprinting his predictable stemwinders on his podcast and on the courthouse steps. He plainly relished the attention; one almost got the sense he was enjoying his status as a criminal defendant. Hey, it’s all about relevance, right?" Honig writes.
According to Honig, it was a different story inside the courtroom.As he points out, Judge Carl Nichols shut down Bannon's "bogus defenses" before trial began and prevented him from turning the trial into a "silly circus."
Bannon, who led Trump's 2016 presidential election campaign, was among hundreds of people called by a House of Representatives committee to testify about the storming of Congress by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021.
The 68-year-old Republican strategist did not appear on the summons date or provide requested documents, and was indicted on two charges of contempt of Congress.
Honig writes that the prosecution's case was simple: Bannon defied a congressional subpoena and offered no defense at his trial. He was found guilty within hours. "This wasn’t the 'misdemeanor from hell' for DOJ; this was a cake party for the feds."
Presenting the government's case, prosecutor Amanda Vaughn told the jury that Bannon was "not above the law" and had made a "deliberate decision" not to obey the subpoena.
Bannon's attorneys did not call any witnesses during the brief trial and he did not testify in his own defense.
The 12-person jury deliberated for less than three hours before finding Bannon guilty of both misdemeanor charges.
"Now Bannon will go to federal prison for at least thirty days, no matter what. Contempt of Congress is the rare misdemeanor that carries a mandatory minimum sentence," writes Honig. "Sure, Bannon can appeal, but I don’t see much chance this verdict gets thrown out, despite his lawyer’s boisterous claim that he has a “'bulletproof appeal.'
According to the Jan. 6 committee, Bannon spoke to Trump the day before thousands of his supporters stormed the Capitol in an effort to block the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.
They had been egged on by Trump in a fiery speech near the White House, during which he repeated his false claims of election fraud.
After refusing to testify for months, Bannon finally agreed to cooperate with the House investigation, a move prosecutors dismissed as a "last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability."
With additional reporting by AFP