Steve Bannon plans to appeal contempt of Congress conviction
After a jury found Steve Bannon guilty of two counts of criminal contempt for defying a congressional subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, the onetime adviser to former President Donald Trump and his attorney David Schoen spoke about the trial and plan to appeal the verdict.
STEVE BANNON: Thank you. I want to thank-- start by thanking the jury. We respect their decision today. I really want to thank those hardworking citizens of Washington DC that had to take an entire week off to go through this. So thanks. We respect their decision. We may have lost a battle here today, but we're not going to lose this war, OK? David Schoen is going to talk here in a second about exactly-- for what the jury heard, they came to their conclusion right about what was put on in that courtroom. David Schoen is going to talk to you about our appeals process. But listen, in the closing argument, the prosecutor missed one very important phrase, right? I stand with Trump and the Constitution, and I will never back off that ever.
- This didn't seem like the misdemeanor from hell, Mr. Bannon. What happened?
STEVE BANNON: I thought it was pretty good hell.
DAVID SCHOEN: This is round one. That's what happened.
STEVE BANNON: Yeah. Stay tuned.
DAVID SCHOEN: This is a bulletproof appeal. Have you ever in another case seen a judge six times say in the case that he thinks the standard for willfulness is wrong? He said it doesn't comport with modern jurisprudence. He said it doesn't comport with the standard-- the traditional definition. But he said he feels his hands were bound by a 1961 decision. You will see this case reversed on appeal. You will see all of these resources-- three federal prosecutors, four FBI agents-- for a misdemeanor are being wasted.
You cannot find another crime in which, misdemeanor or felony, in which a person is convicted without believing or knowing or having reason to believe he or she did anything wrong. That's the standard that was applied in this case. The government said from the start the standard they were urging on the court was, was Bannon subpoenaed, and did Bannon show up? Doesn't matter his reasons. They won the case maybe in closing today. They lost their appeal in closing today.
The overreaching by the government in this case has been extraordinary on every level. But shame on this office of the United States Attorney's Office and the Department of Justice for how far it went in this case. They put forward an argument today that completely tears asunder constitutional principle of separation of powers. They argued to the jury today that when a person gets a subpoena and executive privilege is invoked, it's for Congress to decide whether the executive privilege is valid and how broad it is. That's absolutely false.
The courts says there's a question whether the question is judiciable in court. But if it is, only the courts can be the arbiter. They likened today Congress to a referee on a playground field with children and that Mr. Bannon didn't want to listen to the referee. That's not how our constitutional structure works. Whether one believes executive privilege was properly invoked here, was valid, how broad it was, et cetera, when a former president or a current president invokes executive privilege, it's presumptively valid, period. It's not for Congress to decide that it's not valid.
Secondly, from the willfulness standard that the judge felt compelled to apply in this case and which he said he's inclined to think is wrong, again, all they had to prove was that he didn't show up. That can't be the standard in a case, especially in a case that holds the potential for a jail sentence. So think about it. Any citizen gets a subpoena from Congress, hires an experienced lawyer, the lawyer tells that citizen you may not comply, not we ought to think about it. Former president invoked executive privilege. You may not comply.
Again, you can debate whether he could have complied in part or in full. He listened to his lawyer. It's not an intuitive process. His lawyer directed him he may not apply. The Justice Department decisions, as we've said in the past, their official position has been in the past that former and current executive branch employees, when they're served with a subpoena and executive privilege is invoked, cannot be compelled to appear and in any event that this statute cannot be applied against them. There are issues for appeal in this case that are astounding.
- You argue that--
STEVE BANNON: By the way, by the way, by the-- the only-- hang on. I want to thank the jury for what-- the effort they did, the judge, particularly the court administration here, everybody. I only have one disappointment, and that is the gutless members of that show trial committee. The J6 Committee didn't have the guts to come down here and testify in open court. Thank you very--