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Bannon defense in closing arguments say former White House adviser denied constitutional rights

Prosecution team rested its case Wednesday after two days, in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Published: July 21, 2022 9:58am

Updated: July 22, 2022 9:55am

Defense lawyers for Steve Bannon in closing arguments Thursday for the former Trump White House adviser argued their client is being deprived of his constitutional right to confront witnesses against him.

The argument follows U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols denying Bannon access to House Democrats associated with the chamber's Jan. 6 committee including Chairman Bennie Thompson and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who organized the committee. 

"I do think we would be entitled to have the whole committee here, quite frankly," defense lawyer David Schoen argued. 

Bannon is on trial in a Washington, D.C., federal court on contempt changes for having not complied with two subpoenas issued by the committee – one to provide a deposition and another to turn over documents related to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

Schoen argued that his client should have the opportunity to question members of Congress in hopes of demonstrating that his non-compliance was not intentional. 

In response, Nichols asked: "What does Mr. Thompson’s testimony tell us about Bannon’s mens rea," or knowledge of wrongdoing. 

Schoen said Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, can provide information speaking to Bannon’s belief that the dates on the subpoena "were flexible," thus the reason for his non-compliance. 

The defense team has argued from the start of the case on Tuesday that Bannon was negotiating with the committee about complying with two subpoenas.

The team started and rested its case Wednesday without calling a single witness.

The prosecution will make closing arguments Friday, then the case will go the the jury.

Justice Department lawyers have thus far argued Bannon knew about the deadlines to comply with the subpoenas and willingly ignore them. They also called two witnesses, an attorney for the committee and an FBI agent, to answer question about the case to try to prove their argument.

Bannon was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received the House panel’s referral.

In a departure from House norms, Pelosi last year rejected two of the five House Republican picks for the panel, prompting GOP leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to pull all five of his party's choices from the committee. Pelosi then handpicked two anti-Trump Republicans to join the seven Democrats on the committee.

Each count carries a minimum of 30 days of jail and as long as a year behind bars upon conviction, the wire service also reports.

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