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Steve Bannon’s contempt of Congress conviction, briefly explained

Bannon’s conviction is the first for a close Trump associate after January 6. He faces up to a year in jail.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and his two lawyers leave a federal courthouse in Washington, DC, after Bannon was found guilty of contempt of Congress.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Former White House adviser Stephen Bannon was convicted Friday on two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena from the House January 6 committee. The first count was for his refusal to appear for a deposition and the second was for refusal to turn over documents.

A jury reached the decision after less than three hours of deliberation. Bannon faces up to a year in jail.

It’s the first conviction connected to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot for anyone in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle, although another former Trump White House aide, Peter Navarro, faces a trial in the fall for contempt of Congress. It also marks the first conviction directly connected to the work of the January 6 committee and bookends the committee’s work, coming one day after it completed its first public phase with a primetime hearing.

In a statement, US Attorney Matthew Graves said, “The subpoena to Stephen Bannon was not an invitation that could be rejected or ignored. Mr. Bannon had an obligation to appear before the House Select Committee to give testimony and provide documents. His refusal to do so was deliberate and now a jury has found that he must pay the consequences.”

Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), the chair and vice chair of the January 6 committee, celebrated the verdict in a statement. “The conviction of Steve Bannon is a victory for the rule of law and an important affirmation of the Select Committee’s work,” they said. “As the prosecutor stated, Steve Bannon ‘chose allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law.’ Just as there must be accountability for all those responsible for the events of January 6th, anyone who obstructs our investigation into these matters should face consequences. No one is above the law.”

Bannon first came to national prominence running Breitbart News, the hard-right website that became a key conservative news outlet in the early 2010s. He used Breitbart as a platform to push populist conservative views, particularly on immigration, and became a key power broker on the right of the Republican Party.

Long an ardent advocate for Trump, he joined the Republican nominee’s struggling campaign in August 2016 and helped Trump pull off his narrow upset victory over Hillary Clinton. He then spent a tempestuous seven-month period as Trump’s chief strategist in the White House, where he was a key figure in the infighting and bickering that defined the beginning of the Trump administration.

After leaving the White House, Bannon had a hot-and-cold relationship with Trump. However, by the end of Trump’s term, he had worked his way back into the president’s good graces and launched a popular pro-Trump podcast. The outgoing president returned the favor by pardoning Bannon on fraud charges that arose from allegations Bannon had diverted money for personal use that had been donated to a charity pledging to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

The former White House strategist played a key role in supporting Trump’s false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, which put him in the committee’s crosshairs. He attended a January 2021 strategy meeting at the Willard Hotel with other allies of the former president who were trying to reverse the election results, and was in touch with Trump in the days before the attack on the Capitol.

Bannon is scheduled to be sentenced on October 21. In the meantime, he is almost certain to appeal.