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Tuesday, December 05 2023
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US: Trump aide Bannon held guilty of contempt of Congress

Trump aide Bannon held guilty of contempt of Congress
Photo Credit : IANS
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.

The select committee has said that Bannon made the “all hell is going to break loose” after a phone conversation with Trump on January 5. The former advisor had also attended a “war-room” meeting with other Trump aides such as personal attorney Rudy Giuliani the same day about the rally the next day.

Another Trump aide, former trade advisor Peter Navarro, is also facing contempt of congress proceedings; he was indicted in June. The department of justice has declined, however, to prosecute two other Trump aides – former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Social Media Director Dan Scavino – referred to it by the committee for contempt.

Meadows first cooperated with the committee and turned over thousands of documents containing text messages, emails, and other communications, but pulled out of personal testimony.

The select committee is expected to hold its last public hearing on Thursday. It has no power to prosecute anyone, but the department of justice has been following the proceedings closely and had already raided two Trump-era aides who participated in his efforts to overturn his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

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