WASHINGTON — A federal judge sentenced Steve Bannon to four months behind bars and a $6,500 fine Friday for defying a subpoena from the January 6th Committee.
Bannon, who served as the CEO of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and then for a brief time as senior counsel to the president, was convicted by a jury in July of two counts of contempt of Congress. He was indicted last year after refusing to turn over documents or appear for a deposition to provide testimony to the January 6th Committee on a number of subject, including his presence at the Willard Hotel “war room” on Jan. 5 “during an effort to persuade Members of Congress to block the certification of the election the next day.”
In a sentencing memo, prosecutors argued Bannon employed a “bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt” by claiming he was prevented by an executive privilege claim from the former president from providing any documents or even appearing before the committee. Trump attorney Justin Clark told the FBI in an interview that there had never been an invocation of executive privilege on Bannon’s behalf. On Friday, assistant U.S. attorney J.P. Cooney called the claim a “smokescreen”
“He chose, hiding behind a fabricated claim of executive privilege and advice of counsel, to thumb his nose at Congress,” Cooney said.
Bannon was represented in the case by attorneys Evan Corcoran, who is also representing Trump in the ongoing dispute over potentially sensitive government documents discovered at his Mar-a-Lago residence, and David Schoen, who represented Trump during his second impeachment trial. In a fiery speech in court Friday, Schoen slammed the January 6th Committee as partisan and said Bannon had no reason to show remorse for his actions.
“Quite frankly, Mr. Bannon should make no apology,” Schoen said.
Schoen also took aim at Clark, the Trump attorney who rebutted Bannon’s claim of executive privilege, calling him a “thug” and “one of the Three Stooges” and suggesting he couldn’t be believed.
Prosecutors asked for Bannon to serve six months in jail and pay the maximum allowable $200,000 fine. Schoen and Corcoran asked for a probationary sentence – although because the contempt of Congress statute mandates a 30-day minimum sentence, that was unlikely to be granted. After hearing from both sides Friday, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols delivered a sentence closer to the government’s request, with a few caveats.
Nichols noted that in the year since Bannon had received his subpoena, he had not provided a single responsive document to the committee, had not provided a log of what documents he thought might be covered by executive privilege and had not sat to give any testimony. He also pointed out the record does not support Bannon’s claim the executive privilege barred him from providing any of those items.
“The record reflects that in the fall of 2021 former President Trump had not asserted executive privilege over any particular documents or testimony and certainly had not instructed Mr. Bannon not to provide any testimony to the committee,” Nichols said.
Nichols also said “no conceivable claim” of executive privilege could have been asserted over some of the items the committee sought in the subpoena. The committee’s subpoena sought Bannon’s communications with Trump between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021, but also numerous other categories of documents, including communications with or about the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Alex Jones.
"Flaunting congressional subpoenas betrays a lack of respect for the legislative branch," Nichols said.
Nichols ordered Bannon to serve four months behind bars and pay a $6,500 fine. Bannon was allowed to self-surrender by Nov. 15, however Nichols said he would stay the sentence if and when Bannon filed an expected appeal of his conviction.
Outside of court Friday, Schoen promised that “bulletproof” appeal would be coming soon. Bannon, who has made his career in recent years as a right-wing firebrand, promised a reckoning would be coming for members of the January 6th Committee and “judgement day for the Biden regime.” Bannon and his attorneys then left in a black SUV as the sound of protestors drowned out any possibility of further speech.
In addition to his contempt of Congress case, Bannon was indicted last month by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for allegedly defrauding thousands of donors out of more than $15 million through his non-profit We Build the Wall, Inc. In July, WUSA9 reported a former Trump campaign staffer, Jessica Denson, was also seeking to have Bannon declared in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena in D.C. Superior Court.
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