Bannon trial closing arguments set for Friday after defense calls no witnesses

Alex Brandon
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WASHINGTON — Closing arguments in Steve Bannon's contempt of Congress trial are set for Friday after the former Donald Trump adviser declined to put up a defense argument or present evidence to the jury.

Federal prosecutors rested their case against Bannon on Wednesday, and Bannon's team indicated Thursday that they would not call any witnesses or present a defense case. Much of the day Wednesday was spent on discussions away from the jury, including talk about a defense motion for acquittal and discussion of the final instructions that will be delivered to the jury before they begin deliberations.

Bannon lawyer David Schoen said that, while Bannon wanted to testify, he would not do so on advice of counsel.

Bannon “very much wanted to do so since the day he was indicted,” Schoen said, but his client understands he would be “barred from explaining the true facts” of the case due to limits on the types of defenses that Bannon is allowed to bring forward.

“He wanted to testify under oath that at all times he was doing what he thought the law required him to do,” Schoen said.

Shoen added that “since Mr. Bannon would be barred from testifying about his reliance on the advice of counsel, he will not be testifying” and he will not be calling former lawyer Robert Costello

Bannon himself, speaking for the first time during his trial, told the judge that he was waiving his right to testify.

Bannon was indicted on contempt of Congress charges last year after refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. He faces up to a year in prison if convicted, and a 30-day minimum sentence.

The Justice Department has told jurors that Bannon thought he was “above the law” and has presented what they say is a relatively straightforward case against Bannon. They said Bannon was required to provide documents and testimony to the committee by set dates last October, and he failed to do so.

The Jan. 6 committee, meanwhile, is set to hold a primetime hearing on Thursday evening that will focus on Trump's activities in the 187 minutes they say that Trump failed to call off the rioters who were attacking the Capitol.