Bannon convicted of US Congress contempt

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Steve Bannon, a key associate of former president Donald Trump, has been convicted of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the committee probing the attack on the US Capitol, a verdict the panel called a "victory for the rule of law".

A jury found Bannon, 68, guilty of two misdemeanour counts for refusing to provide testimony or documents to the House of Representatives select committee as it scrutinises the January 6, 2021, rampage by Trump supporters who tried to upend the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Each count is punishable by 30 days to one year behind bars and a fine of $US100 to $US100,000 ($A144-$A144,000). US District Judge Carl Nichols set an October 21 sentencing date.

The verdict, after less than three hours of deliberations, marked the first successful prosecution for contempt of Congress since 1974, when a judge convicted G Gordon Liddy, a conspirator in the Watergate scandal that prompted president Richard Nixon's resignation.

Bannon was a key adviser to the Republican Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, then served as his chief White House strategist in 2017 before a falling out between them that was later patched up. Bannon also has played an instrumental role in right-wing media.

"We lost a battle here today. We're at war," Bannon told reporters after the verdict on Friday, while one of his lawyers, David Schoen, said they would have "a bullet-proof appeal".

Bannon castigated the "members of that show-trial committee" who he said "didn't have the guts to come down here and testify in open court". Bannon opted not to testify in his own defence.

"The conviction of Steve Bannon is a victory for the rule of law," committee chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat, and vice-chair Liz Cheney, a Republican, said in a statement.

"Just as there must be accountability for all those responsible for the events of January 6th, anyone who obstructs our investigation into these matters should face consequences. No one is above the law."

Bannon's defence team had suggested Bannon was a political target and painted the main prosecution witness as a politically motivated Democrat with ties to one of the prosecutors, including belonging to the same book club.

The prosecution said Bannon showed disdain for congressional authority and needed to be held accountable for unlawful defiance.

Prosecutor Molly Gaston told jurors the attack represented a "dark day" for America, adding: "There is nothing political about finding out why January 6 happened and making sure it never happens again."

The judge limited Bannon's case. Bannon was barred from arguing that he believed his communications with Trump were subject to executive privilege and was prohibited from arguing that he relied upon a lawyer's legal advice in refusing to comply.

The conviction may strengthen the committee's position as it seeks evidence from others in Trump's orbit. Trump last year asked his associates not to co-operate.

Another former Trump adviser, Peter Navarro, was charged with contempt of Congress in June. His trial is scheduled for November.

The Justice Department opted not to charge Trump associates Mark Meadows and Daniel Scavino for defying the committee despite a House vote recommending it.

In two days of testimony, prosecutors questioned only two witnesses and the defence called none.

Kristin Amerling, a top committee staffer, testified that Bannon spurned deadlines to respond to last September's subpoena, sought no extensions and offered an invalid rationale for his defiance: Trump's claim of executive privilege.

The Justice Department charged Bannon last November after the Democratic-led House voted the prior month to hold him in contempt.

Bannon separately was charged in 2020 with defrauding donors to a fundraising effort to boost Trump's project to build a wall along the US-Mexican border. Trump pardoned Bannon before that case went to trial.

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