Steve Bannon’s Contempt of Congress Trial: What to Know

Three days before the start of his trial for contempt of Congress, Steve Bannon didn’t sound worried about it. On his podcast, he directed his listeners to tune in to a CNN special airing that weekend called “Steve Bannon: Divided We Fall.”

The report wasn’t a flattering portrait of former President Donald Trump’s one-time White House strategist, who served for a time as the chairman of his 2020 presidential campaign. However, Bannon seemed pleased by the way that special described his reach. He repeatedly played for his listeners CNN’s promotion of the show, which asserted that Bannon had a “masterplan” to reshape the U.S. government, the Republican Party and the country. Bannon’s reaction: “Not too shabby.”

He may enjoy the media coverage of his exploits but Bannon could end up in jail for refusing talk to Congress about them. Bannon was one of Trump’s closest allies who refused to cooperate in the House investigation into the January 6, 2021 attack on Capitol. He has not complied with the committee’s subpoena or its demand for documents.

Jury selection for Bannon’s trial over two charges of contempt of Congress began Monday morning in Washington, D.C. Bannon arrived at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse wearing a black blazer over his signature layers of collared shirts. Bannon smiled as he approached the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse.

Bannon is known for spreading falsehoods about the 2020 election, and calling on Donald Trump to remain in power. He’s continued perpetuating those falsehoods through his popular podcast, War Room, which has become a regular campaign stop for Republican candidates who falsely deny Biden won the election.

The committee has presented evidence that Bannon was a central player in the events leading up to Trump’s scheme to overturn the 2020 election, including the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. Bannon was prominently mentioned at the last public hearing. The committee disclosed that Bannon had spoken on the telephone with Trump six minutes earlier in the night of January 5. Earlier that day, Bannon predicted on his podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”

There’s evidence that Bannon was thinking about helping Trump stay in power well before Election Day, no matter the results. Last week, Mother Jones published an audio recording from October 31, 2020, days before the election, during which Bannon said that Trump was going to “declare victory” once the early returns were in, even though mail-in ballots that wouldn’t be counted until later were widely expected to favor Joe Biden. “He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner,” Bannon said to a group of people. “He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.” Bannon also openly described that same plan on an episode of his War Room podcast that aired on Election Day.

This isn’t Bannon’s first time facing charges. In August 2020, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged Bannon with wire fraud and laundering of money in connection to their alleged efforts to raise money for a southwest border wall. Trump issued a pardon for Bannon the day before he left office, and, as a result of Trump’s pardon, a judge agreed to dismiss the charges against Bannon in May 2021.

Even though Bannon egged Republicans on to flout the results of the election, Bannon’s trial focuses on a much more narrow question: Has he complied with the House subpoena and cooperated with the investigation? Bannon’s meetings at Willard Hotel on January 5, 2021 (the night preceding the Capitol Riot) is what the committee would like to speak with. Bannon’s legal team has argued that Trump’s interest in asserting executive privilege prevents him from describing his dealings with the former President around that time, even though Bannon stopped working in the White House in 2017.

With Bannon’s trial date approaching, his legal team launched a Hail Mary defense last week, announcing Trump had waived claims of executive privilege and would allow Bannon to cooperate with the committee. However, the judge in this case stated that Bannon’s trial would continue as scheduled.

The trial may be brief once the jury has been seated. Bannon, if found guilty of either one or both the charges could be sentenced to 30 days up to a year imprisonment.

Bannon, regardless of what happens, will remain in the headlines. This may not be the place he wanted to be.

Even as he stands to be sentenced to jail—this time without an ally in the Oval Office to pardon him—Bannon didn’t miss a beat on the self-promotion front. The War Room Podcast featured his latest episode Monday with Jack Posobiec (far-right activist) as the host.

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