Topline

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will stand trial starting Monday in DC federal District Court on two counts of contempt of Congress over his refusal to comply with a January 6 committee subpoena, in a trial prosecutors hope will be brief and lead to the first guilty verdict for contempt of Congress in nearly 50 years.

Key Facts

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Jury selection will start Monday, with opening arguments to follow after a panel is selected.

Prosecutors intend to only take a day to present their case, which will focus on Bannon choosing to ignore a September 2021 subpoena requesting he turn over documents and testify before the January 6 committee, according to the Washington Post,

Bannon has pleaded not guilty and repeatedly asserted that conversations he had with then-President Donald Trump leading up to and potentially during the storming of the Capitol are protected by executive privilege—a legally flimsy claim since Bannon left his job as a government official in 2017 .

George W. Bush-appointed District Judge Carl J. Nichols, who is overseeing the trial, rejected a request from Bannon’s legal team to delay the proceedings over executive privilege claims.

Nichols has reportedly told Bannon’s lawyers that the only feasible defense at this point is to argue Bannon somehow did not understand the deadline set for him in the subpoena—it’s unclear if Bannon will testify.

Bannon faces up to two years in prison if convicted on both contempt counts.

Surprising Fact

The most recent trial conviction for contempt of Congress came in 1974, when G. Gordon Liddy was found guilty for his role in the Watergate scandal. There hasn't been a trial at all for contempt of Congress since 1983, when Reagan-era Environmental Protection Agency official Rita Lavelle was found not guilty, though she was later convicted on a separate federal perjury charge related to the misappropriation of EPA funds. Most contempt of Congress indictments result in plea agreements and never make it to trial.

What To Watch For

Bannon's attorney recently informed the January 6 committee that his client is now willing to testify, preferably at a public hearing, but the statement came as Bannon's team was working to delay the trial. It is unclear if he still intends to testify after Nichols ordered the Monday start date for the trial.

Key Background

Bannon was among the first tranche of former Trump administration officials the committee subpoenaed over January 6, and it swiftly moved to hold him in contempt after he refused to comply. Bannon was allegedly part of a small group of Trump advisors who holed up at DC's Willard Hotel after the 2020 election to devise plans for Trump to overturn the results. Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and right-wing legal scholar John Eastman were also reportedly among those working out of the hotel. The January 6 committee revealed at its hearing Tuesday that Bannon and Trump spoke twice on the phone on January 5. After the first conversation, Bannon declared on his radio show: "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow."

House Holds Bannon In Contempt For Reusing Jan. 6 Subpoena — Criminal Charges Could Follow (Forbes)

Jan. 6 Committee Expects Testimony From Steve Bannon, Rep. Lofgren Says (Forbes)

Steve Bannon's Contempt Of Congress Trial Will Begin Next Week, Judge Rules (Forbes)

Bannon Pleads Not Guilty To Contempt Of Congress (Forbes)

Facing trial, Bannon vows to go 'mediaval,' but judge says Meh (Washington Post)

Steve Bannon Said 'All Hell Going to Break Loose' After Talking to Trump on Jan. 5 (Rolling Stone)