Stephen K. Bannon, the former adviser to president Donald Trump, did not testify or call witnesses in his defense, clearing the way for closing arguments on Friday morning, followed by jury deliberations. Bannon’s attorneys told the judge Thursday morning that prosecutors had failed to show that their client was guilty of contempt of Congress for his alleged refusal to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The disclosure from Bannon’s defense team came after the government rested its case Wednesday, following the testimony of two witnesses — a congressional staffer and an FBI agent.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols dismissed jurors for the day and asked them to return Friday morning for closing arguments. The judge is also considering a defense motion challenging whether prosecutors have met their burden of proof as well as defense arguments that the testimony of Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House committee, is essential to their case.
Bannon is accused of refusing to provide documents or testimony in response to the panel’s subpoena. Trial proceedings took place hours before the very panel the government says Bannon rebuffed is set to meet for a prime-time hearing.
Though Bannon had initially suggested that former president Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege that could shield some of the president’s conversations from congressional inquiries, the judge overseeing the case ruled that the privilege is not a valid defense unless Bannon can show it caused him to misunderstand the subpoena’s compliance deadlines.
Prosecutors have asserted that Bannon “chose to show contempt” and “decided he was above the law,” while Bannon’s attorneys have argued that their client did not “ignore” the committee’s formal request but was in negotiations with the panel.