Stephen K. Bannon, a longtime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump who helped try to change the results of the 2020 election, was given a four-month prison sentence on Friday for ignoring a subpoena from a House committee looking into the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
This summer, Mr. Bannon, who is 68 years old, was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress. Judge Carl J. Nichols ruled against Mr. Bannon’s defense team, which said, among other things, that he was protected by executive privilege from having to testify.
“Others must be stopped from doing similar crimes,” said Judge Nichols, who was picked by Trump. He also fined Mr. Bannon $6,500. He will stay free until his appeal is heard.
The sentence is two months shorter than what federal prosecutors had asked for this week. It comes a year after the House held Mr. Bannon in contempt. Shortly after the sentencing hearing, the committee sent a formal subpoena to Mr. Trump, asking him to appear at a deposition next month and hand over documents.
What Did The Government Say About Steve Bannon?
The government said that Mr. Bannon, who used to be the editor of the right-wing news site Breitbart, had “pursued a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt” from the moment he got the subpoena asking him what he knew about Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss in the election.
Judge Nichols said that Mr. Bannon had shown “no remorse for his actions” and had not yet shown that he planned to follow the subpoena in a heated exchange with the defense team before announcing a sentence.
Judge Nichols didn’t believe Mr. Bannon’s claims that executive privilege gave him the right not to testify. But he also said that Mr. Bannon’s late attempt to reach a deal with the committee, his time in the Navy, the fact that he didn’t have a criminal record and the fact that the legal status of executive privilege wasn’t clear were reasons why he shouldn’t get a longer sentence.
Since Mr. Bannon has been a part of Mr. Trump’s political circle for seven years, he has caused a lot of push-and-shove trouble. The scene outside Federal District Court was a good example of this. After he got out of court, he stood in front of the cameras and said that the idea that he thought he was above the law was “an absolute and total lie,” while protesters yelled “Traitor!” over bullhorns a few feet away.
Steve Bannon sentenced to four months in prison for Contempt of Congress: "Today was my judgement day by the judge…we'll have a very vigorous appeals process. I've got a great legal team…on November 8th there's gonna have judgment on the illegitimate Biden regime…" pic.twitter.com/xqUXJyLeJn
— CSPAN (@cspan) October 21, 2022
As the crowd pushed Mr. Bannon up against his black SUV, he paused for a moment inside the half-open back door and smiled wryly before driving away.
Mr. Bannon is a fast-talking provocateur who has made fun of the government for bringing charges against him on his daily internet radio show. He took a defiant attitude toward his sentencing. As he walked into court with his lawyers by his side, he told reporters that he didn’t think President Biden had the right to be there.
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He went on to say that the upcoming midterm elections would be the “day of judgment” for Democrats and urged everyone in earshot to fight against the Chinese Communist Party.
Steve Bannon arrival for sentencing ….
Bannon: "Their judgment day is on 8 November, when the Biden administration ends. By the way, and remember: Take down the CCP." pic.twitter.com/XS8hhKvD2r
— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) October 21, 2022
The government wanted the maximum punishment to be six months in prison and a $200,000 fine. The main prosecutor, J.P. Cooney, said that Mr. Bannon “thumbed his nose” at American democracy and didn’t care about the basic responsibilities of witnesses who came to court every day.
“He showed his disrespect for the criminal justice system, the law, and Congress,” Mr. Cooney said. He accused Mr. Bannon of never “lifting a finger” to do what the law required him to do, which was to produce evidence or just show up when he was called to testify about his right not to.
David I. Schoen, who was Mr. Trump’s lawyer during his second impeachment trial and is now Mr. Bannon’s main lawyer, brought up many of the same points he did then. He made Mr. Bannon look like a brave defender of executive power instead of someone who just didn’t want to obey a legal call from the legislature.
“Mr. Bannon never thought in any way, shape, or form that he was doing anything illegal or against the law,” Mr. Schoen said in a long, rambling speech in which he quoted James Madison and then went off on a tangent to call a former Trump lawyer “a thug” who had ripped him off.
On the day before the trial, Mr. Bannon and his lawyers quietly reached out to congressional staffers to offer to testify if the government dropped the charges. It was turned down.
Mr. Bannon made fun of Mr. Schoen on his radio show, so Mr. Schoen suggested that Mr. Bannon not go to jail but instead get probation. He said that the Justice Department had not filed charges against Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump‘s last chief of staff, and Dan Scavino Jr., who was the deputy chief of staff in charge of Mr. Trump’s social media operations, even though they had also ignored subpoenas from the committee. Mr. Schoen also said that everything Mr. Bannon did was based on what his lawyers told him to do. Mr. Bannon is not the only former Trump employee who is being charged with ignoring a committee subpoena: Peter Navarro, who used to work as a trade adviser for the White House, was charged with disobeying Congress in June.
Next month, he will be put on trial in Washington. Members of the House Jan. 6 committee who saw Mr. Bannon as a key player in a number of schemes to keep Mr. Trump in power illegally said that the sentence would stop other people from ignoring legislative subpoenas.
This is not the first time Mr. Bannon has been called to account in a federal court. During his brief and tumultuous time as a senior White House adviser, he had fights with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and other staffers. In August 2020, Mr. Bannon and three other people were charged with stealing more than a million dollars from donors as part of an online scheme to raise money for Mr. Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico. After Mr. Trump lost the election, Mr. Bannon started trying to get him a pardon while also going to meetings to talk about how to overturn the election. Mr. Trump gave him a pardon just a few hours before he left office.
Still, Mr. Bannon is being charged separately in New York for his part in the project to raise money. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has charged him with fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. This case is very similar to the one that was thrown out by the pardon.
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