Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon was sentenced Friday to four months in prison for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
What You Need To Know
- Former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon was sentenced Friday to four months in prison for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol
- A CEO to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and then a chief strategist to the president, Bannon also was ordered to pay a $6,500 fine
- A federal jury convicted Bannon of two counts of criminal contempt of Congress following a four-day trial in July: one for refusing to sit for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents
- Prosecutors requested a six-month sentence and $200,000 fine, arguing that Bannon pursued a “bad faith strategy” and his public statements disparaging the committee itself made it clear he wanted to undermine their efforts
A CEO to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and then a chief strategist to the president, Bannon also was ordered to pay a $6,500 fine.
A federal jury convicted Bannon of two counts of criminal contempt of Congress following a four-day trial in July: one for refusing to sit for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents. His sentencing came exactly one year after the full House of Representatives voted to hold him in contempt.
Bannon, 68, said he is preparing to appeal his conviction. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said Bannon will not be forced to report to prison until after his appeal plays out.
Prosecutors had requested a six-month sentence and $200,000 fine. They 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 their effort to get to the bottom of the violent attack and keep anything like it from happening again.
“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.
“Your honor, the defendant is not above the law and that is exactly what makes this case important,” Cooney said. “It must be made clear to the public, to the citizens, that no one is above the law.”
Bannon's lawyers argued their client deserved a sentence of probation. Judge Nichols said “the law is clear” that the minimum sentence he could give was one month in prison. Nichols also said Bannon has shown no remorse.
The defense insisted Bannon wasn’t acting in bad faith, but trying to avoid running afoul of executive privilege objections Trump had raised when Bannon was first served with a committee subpoena last year. The onetime presidential adviser said he wanted a Trump lawyer in the room, but the committee wouldn’t allow it.
Many other former White House aides have testified with only their own counsel. Bannon had been fired from the White House in 2017 and was a private citizen when he was consulting with the then-president before the riot.
The House panel had sought Bannon’s testimony over his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Bannon has yet to testify or provide any documents to the committee, prosecutors wrote.
“The subpoena to Stephen Bannon was not an invitation that could be rejected or ignored,” Matthew Graves, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said after the trial. “Mr. Bannon had an obligation to appear before the House Select Committee to give testimony and provide documents. His refusal to do so was deliberate and now a jury has found that he must pay the consequences.”
Defense attorneys argued during the trial that he didn’t refuse to cooperate and that the deadline dates “were in flux.” They pointed to the fact that Bannon had reversed course shortly before the trial kicked off — after Trump waived his objection — and had offered to testify before the committee.
But that offer came with strings attached, federal attorneys wrote, including the dismissal of the criminal case against him. When it became clear that wasn't in the cards, the possibility of cooperation faded, court records state.
Before the judge handed down the sentence, Bannon’s lawyer, David Schoen, gave an impassioned argument railing against the committee and saying Bannon had simply done was 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.
Schoen also defended Bannon’s public remarks about the committee: “Telling the truth about this committee or speaking one’s mind about this committee, it’s not only acceptable in this country, it's an obligation if one believes it to be true,” Schoen said.
Bannon did not speak during his sentencing hearing. Outside the courtroom afterward, he told reporters that he testified more than any other member of the Trump administration before Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and the House and Senate intelligence committees in investigations into whether there was coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and the Russian government. He called the insinuation that he believes he’s above the law “an absolute and total lie.”
Bannon then launched into an attack on Democrats, predicting they will lose their majorities in next month’s midterm elections and that Attorney General Merrick Garland will be impeached and removed from office.
Bannon is also facing separate money laundering, fraud and conspiracy charges in New York related to the “We Build the Wall” campaign. Bannon has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Bannon falsely promised donors that all money would go to constructing a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, but instead was involved with transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to third-party entities and using them to funnel payments to two other people involved in the scheme.
He faced federal charges in 2020 related to the same fundraising campaign, but Trump pardoned him just before leaving office.