Bannon Sentenced to 4 Months in Prison for Contempt of Congress
"Stephen Bannon was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress this summer for defying a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Friday sentenced Stephen K. Bannon, a longtime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump who aided in the effort to overturn the 2020 election, to four months in prison for disobeying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
Mr. Bannon, 68, was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress this summer after Judge Carl J. Nichols rejected an array of arguments offered by Mr. Bannon’s defense team, including that he was protected from being compelled to testify by executive privilege.
Mr. Bannon will remain free pending his appeal.
The sentence, coming a year after Mr. Bannon was held in contempt by the House, is two months short of what federal prosecutors had requested this week. They had accused Mr. Bannon, the onetime editor of the right-wing news outlet Breitbart, of having “pursued a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt” from the moment he received the subpoena seeking information about his knowledge of Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his electoral defeat.
“Others must be deterred from committing similar crimes,” said Judge Nichols, who also imposed a fine of $6,500 on Mr. Bannon.
In a contentious exchange with the defense team before announcing a sentence, he said Mr. Bannon had shown “no remorse for his actions” and had yet to “demonstrate he has any intention of complying with the subpoena.”
In issuing the sentence, Judge Nichols dismissed Mr. Bannon’s claims that his refusal to testify was protected by executive privilege. But he also cited Mr. Bannon’s belated effort to reach an agreement with the committee, his service in the Navy, lack of a criminal history, and the unsettled judicial status of executive privilege as factors mitigating against a longer sentence.
Mr. Bannon, a rapid-talking provocateur who has used his daily internet radio show to skewer the government for prosecuting him, approached his sentencing with the same defiance that has characterized his attitude toward the congressional summons that prompted the case. He told reporters that he viewed President Biden as “illegitimate” as he entered Federal District Court in Washington, flanked by his lawyers.
After thanking reporters for showing up, he went on to claim that Democrats would face their “judgment day” in the coming midterm elections and urged all within earshot to oppose the Chinese Communist Party.
He sat impassively in a dark military-style jacket and an untucked blue shirt as the sentence was issued.
The government argued for the maximum penalty of six months. P.J. Cooney, the lead prosecutor, said Mr. Bannon had “thumbed his nose” at American democracy — and flouted the basic responsibilities incurred by witnesses who appeared at the courthouse every day.
“He showed his contempt for the criminal justice system, his contempt for the law and his contempt for Congress,” Mr. Cooney said, accusing Mr. Bannon of never “lifting a finger” to comply with his legal obligations to produce evidence — or simply show up when summoned to assert his right not to testify.
Mr. Bannon’s lead lawyer, David I. Schoen, who represented Mr. Trump during his second impeachment trial, reiterated many of the same themes he raised then. He cast Mr. Bannon as a courageous defender of executive authority rather than someone who simply did not want to obey a lawful legislative summons.
“Never at any time did Mr. Bannon believe in any way, shape or form that he was acting in any way that was unlawful or against the law,” Mr. Schoen said in a rambling hourlong speech in which he invoked the writings of James Madison, then veered off to slam a former Trump lawyer as “a thug” who had ripped him off.
Mr. Bannon and his lawyers quietly reached out to congressional staffers on the eve of the trial, with a belated offer of testimony if the government dropped the charges. It was rejected.
Mr. Schoen, whom Mr. Bannon once mocked on his radio show, recommended that he not spend any time in jail and instead receive probation. He argued that the Justice Department had declined to file indictments against two other former aides to Mr. Trump who had also disregarded subpoenas from the committee: Mark Meadows, his final chief of staff, and Dan Scavino Jr., a deputy chief of staff who oversaw Mr. Trump’s social media operations.
Mr. Schoen also claimed that all of Mr. Bannon’s actions were guided by the advice of his lawyers, including M. Evan Corcoran, who is also representing Mr. Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.
Mr. Bannon is not the only former Trump aide to be charged with disobeying a subpoena from the committee: Peter Navarro, the former White House trade adviser, was indicted in June on contempt of Congress charges.
He is scheduled to go on trial in Washington next month.
Members of the House Jan. 6 committee, who viewed Mr. Bannon as a central figure in several schemes aimed at unlawfully keeping Mr. Trump in power, said the sentence would discourage others from flouting legislative subpoenas.
Mr. Bannon has said he plans to appeal.
This is not the first time Mr. Bannon, who clashed with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and other aides during a brief and tumultuous tenure as a senior White House adviser, has faced a reckoning in a federal court.
In August 2020, Mr. Bannon and three associates were charged with defrauding donors of more than a million dollars as part of online fund-raising scheme purportedly linked to Mr. Trump’s attempt to build a border wall with Mexico.
After Mr. Trump lost the election, Mr. Bannon began lobbying for a pardon, even as he participated in meetings to discuss ways to overturn the election. Mr. Trump pardoned him just hours before leaving office.
Still, Mr. Bannon faces separate charges in New York over his role in the fund-raising project. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has charged him with fraud, money laundering and conspiracy, a case that largely mirrors the one erased by the pardon."