WASHINGTON — Shortly before 3 p.m. on Friday, Steve Bannon, the former chief political strategist for President Donald Trump, was found guilty of two counts of criminal contempt stemming from his refusal to cooperate with the congressional committee investigating the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Leaving the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., where his trial had been held, Bannon denounced the Jan. 6 committee — which has held a series of high-profile hearings in recent weeks — as “gutless.”
The committee, for its part, praised Bannon’s conviction as “a victory for the rule of law.” It had asked him to testify about his knowledge of the events on Jan. 6, and to produce documents that could shed light on how the violent riot was organized and planned. Bannon was present at meetings at the Willard Hotel on both Jan. 5 and 6 that investigators say were used to plan the “Stop the Steal” rally, which turned violent.
He refused to do so, setting up a showdown with the federal government that culminated in Friday’s verdict. But there was little contrition or reflection from Bannon or his supporters, even as sentencing looms in late October.
“I am not backing off 1 inch,” Bannon posted on GETTR later that evening, in a sign that even as other conservatives yearn to move past Trump’s baseless allegations of fraud about the 2020 election, Bannon will continue to insist on the former president’s false claims, even if doing so imperils his own prospects for freedom.
The verdict was “a win for the MAGA Posse,” surmised former Trump official and Bannon associate Boris Epshteyn, arguing on Bannon’s War Room podcast that the proceedings against Bannon were evidence of judicial corruption.
Most other observers, including many conservatives, saw the verdict as the proper response to an insurrection mounted by white supremacists and conspiracy theorists. “I feel like, with the January 6 Committee revelations and the Bannon conviction, we may be turning a corner and heading to a better place as a country,” a prominent attorney, Theodore J. Boutrous, commented on Twitter.
Bannon had left the White House long before the Jan. 6, 2021, attempt to stop Congress from certifying the presidential election won by Joe Biden two months before. But through his vast political network, he remained in close contact with many of the pro-Trump forces involved in the storming of the Capitol, with the War Room podcast serving as a clearinghouse for conspiracy theories.
By 5 p.m. on Friday, Bannon was back at the microphone, predicting a “massive landslide” for the Republican Party — and Donald Trump — in 2024. “The key is victory,” he said. “That’s all we have to focus on.”
Alluding to the afternoon’s verdict, Bannon thanked the “middle-class and working-class people” of the jury, but otherwise seemed unburdened by what appeared to be a serious legal setback for the former Breitbart News chief executive and campaign manager for Trump’s first presidential campaign. While each count he was found guilty of carries a minimum potential sentence of 30 days in prison, Bannon could spend up to two years behind bars.
Ever attuned to the attention he receives from the mainstream media, Bannon reminded listeners that CNN would play a documentary about him later in the evening.
Continuing his post-conviction media blitz, Bannon then appeared on Tucker Carlson’s primetime program on Fox News, where, not surprisingly, he received favorable treatment. “If I go to jail, I go to jail,” Bannon said. “This is an ideological war, and we cannot lose,” he added, reiterating his support for Trump — even as many other Republicans have started to back away from the former president.
Bannon is not likely to join their ranks, or to make the kind of mea culpa that could result in a lighter sentence in October. “I support Trump and the Constitution,” he blustered. “And I am not backing off 1 inch.”