Steve Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison for defying subpoena from Jan. 6 committee

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Steve Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison for defying subpoena from Jan. 6 committee

Steve Bannon, a former top strategist and campaign chair to Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday in U.S. federal court to four months in prison on contempt of Congress charges.

Bannon refused to co-operate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the U.S. Capitol. He was convicted earlier this year after a four-day trial in federal court in Washington on two counts: one for refusing to appear for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the committee’s subpoena.

Bannon, also ordered to pay a $6,500 US fine, faced up to two years in federal prison. Each count carried a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail.

Carl Nichols, a federal judge appointed by Trump, stayed the verdict pending Bannon’s appeal, which means the 68-year-old won’t immediately serve time behind bars.

Prosecutors argued Bannon deserved the longer sentence because he had pursued a “bad faith strategy” and his public statements disparaging the committee itself made it clear he wanted to undermine efforts to get to the bottom of the violent attack.

“He chose to hide behind fabricated claims of executive privilege and advice of counsel to thumb his nose at Congress,” said prosecutor J.P. Cooney.

Bannon unapologetic

Bannon on his way into court, and after the two-hour hearing, railed against what he called an “illegitimate Biden regime,” whose “judgment day” would come in over two weeks when the U.S. midterm elections take place. Bannon stressed after the verdict his grievance was directed at Congress and the current administration, not the judge. 

Steve Bannon sentenced to four months in prison

Steve Bannon, top former adviser to Donald Trump, has been sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress after refusing to co-operate with the Jan. 6 committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Bannon’s lawyer, David Schoen, gave an impassioned argument in court railing against the committee and saying Bannon had simply done what his lawyer told him to do under Trump’s executive privilege objections.

“Quite frankly, Mr. Bannon should make no apology. No American should make any apology for the manner in which Mr. Bannon proceeded in this case,” he said.

Nichols rejected the privilege argument, as Bannon was a private citizen.

Audio of former presidential strategist Steve Bannon was played at the U.S. House Select Committee hearing probing the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 13. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

The verdict was being closely watched as Bannon was not the only Trump associate to snub the committee.

Former White House adviser Peter Navarro faces his own trial in the coming weeks for refusing to appear before the House committee, despite being served with a subpoena. It is not clear when or if former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump adviser Dan Scavino will face legal consequences for not co-operating.

There have been few modern comparables to Bannon’s rejection. Susan McDougal, a friend of Bill Clinton, spent several months in prison in the late 1990s for contempt of a civil proceeding related to investigations into Clinton’s business dealings.

While Bannon did not co-operate with the committee, his name did get mentioned on occasion through other sources during public hearings held over the past five months, including the most recent session last week.

“What Trump’s gonna do, is he’s going to declare victory,” Bannon told a group of associates in August 2020, in audio that the committee obtained. “That doesn’t mean he’s the winner. He’s just going to say he’s the winner.”

“He’s not going out easy. If [Joe] Biden is winning, Trump’s going to do some crazy shit,” Bannon added.

Separate case looms

Bannon has championed right-wing populism for over a decade, first as an executive at Breitbart.com, where the site attacked moderate Republicans, as well as emphasizing urban crime stories and what it characterized as too-liberal immigration levels.

He signed on to become Trump’s final 2016 campaign chair, succeeding Paul Manafort, who eventually served a prison sentence for an assortment of bank fraud charges.

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Bannon spent the first several months of Trump’s presidency as a White House adviser before leaving in August 2017.

He now runs the popular War Room podcast — he was back hosting within an hour of Friday’s verdict — and often hosts guests who deny that Trump lost the 2020 election.

Bannon also faces the prospect of years in prison if convicted in a separate case. He has been indicted in New York on six counts in connection with a fundraising drive, known as “We Build the Wall,” to help build Trump’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon was charged with two counts of money laundering, three counts of conspiracy and one count of scheming to defraud.

According to the indictment, Bannon concealed how the drive’s chief executive was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of donor money despite promising not to take a salary. The chief executive has been identified in court papers as Brian Kolfage, an air force veteran who pleaded guilty in April to federal wire fraud conspiracy and tax charges, and is awaiting sentencing.

Bannon first faced federal charges in the fundraising scheme, but Trump pardoned him. State convictions cannot be pardoned from the White House.

That case is not expected to go to trial for several months.