After presenting zero witnesses of their own, Steve Bannon’s defense lawyers closed Friday by asking jurors to consider whether the rightwing podcaster really meant to ignore a congressional subpoena—nevermind that Bannon repeatedly celebrated his own defiance at the time on social media.
“What was Steve Bannon's intent?” defense attorney Evan Cocoran asked. “Maybe Mr. Bannon should have taken a different route.”
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors remained concentrated on a single point: He didn’t appear when ordered to by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.
"This case is not complicated, but it is important. This is a simple case about a man, that man, Steve Bannon, who didn't show up," said District of Columbia assistant U.S. attorney Molly Gaston.
"He didn't show up because he did not want to provide the January 6 Committee with documents. He did not want to answer its questions,” Gaston said. “And when it really comes down to it, he did not want to recognize Congress' authority or play by the Government's rules.”
“Our government only works if people show up,” she continued. “It only works if people play by the rules. And it only works if people are held accountable when they do not. And in this particular case, when the defendant deliberately chose to defy a congressional subpoena that was a crime.”
In perhaps the most damning evidence shown to jurors, prosecutors pointed to posts Bannon made on his verified Gettr account in which he shared two news stories about his refusal to show up and testify or deliver documents.
"This is the defendant celebrating his defiance," Gaston said.
Bannon’s legal defense team spent most of their closing arguments merely casting doubt on the most elemental parts of the Department of Justice’s evidence, at one point surprising the entire courtroom when they asked jurors to question whether Jan. 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) actually signed the paperwork that bears his signature—including the subpoena. The unusual move forced U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols to spring into action to avoid risking a mistrial.
“You must give Steve Bannon the benefit of the doubt,” Corcoran said, citing “a reasonable doubt as to whether or not Chairman Thompson signed the subpoena.”
Corcoran started, “If you wonder whether or not the subpoena is legit-”“Sidebar,” the judge interrupted, forcing attorneys to speak quietly to one another.
When the Department of Justice made its final message to the jurors, prosecutor Amanga Vaughn spoke plainly.
“You’re not missing anything. This is not difficult. This is not hard. There were two witnesses because this is as simple as it seems. Your eyes are not deceiving you,” she said. “How much clearer could the committee’s letters have been?”
Vaughn also took a shot straight at Bannon personally for ignoring the subpoena, infantilizing the rightwing media personality who ended every court appearance with a fiery government-hating speech but wouldn’t even testify at trial.
“This is like a child arguing with their parent when they're grounded,” Vaughn said. "That kid knows they’re grounded. They can argue all they want. The decision has been made.”