Trump ally Steve Bannon gets 4 months behind bars for defying 1/6 subpoena

WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was sentenced to four months behind bars on Friday after defying a subpoena from the House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol examined.

US District Judge Carl Nichols allowed Bannon to remain at large pending an appeal, a potentially lengthy trial, and also imposed a $6,500 fine as part of the verdict. Bannon was convicted in July on two counts of contempt of Congress: one for refusing to testify and the other for refusing to produce documents.

Nichols handed down the sentence after saying the law was clear that contempt of Congress is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one month behind bars. Bannon’s lawyers had argued the judge could have given him a suspended sentence instead. Prosecutors had requested that Bannon be sent to prison for six months.

“In my view, Mr. Bannon has not accepted responsibility for his actions,” Nichols said before handing down the sentence. “Others must be prevented from committing similar crimes.”

The House panel had asked for Bannon’s testimony about his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election. Bannon has yet to testify or provide documents to the committee.

Prosecutors argued that Bannon, 68, deserved the longer sentence because he had pursued a “bad faith strategy” and his public statements, which disparaged the committee itself, made it clear that he wanted to undermine their efforts to end the violent assault to get to the bottom and something like it doesn’t happen again.

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“He chose to hide behind fabricated claims of executive privileges and attorney advice to turn his nose at Congress,” said prosecutor JP Cooney.

“Your Honor, the defendant is not above the law and that is what makes this case important,” Cooney said. “The public, the citizens must be made clear that nobody is above the law.”

The defense, meanwhile, said he did not act in bad faith but was trying to avoid violating the objection to executive privilege Trump raised when Bannon was first served with a committee subpoena last year. The former presidential adviser said he wanted a Trump attorney in the room, but the committee wouldn’t let it.

In handing down the sentence, the judge noted that Bannon had an attorney, and while his advice may have been “overly aggressive,” he appeared to follow it.

“Mr. Bannon did not ignore the fact that he received the subpoena, nor did he fail to even communicate with the committee,” Nichols said.

Many other former White House staffers have only testified with their own attorney. Bannon was fired from the White House in 2017 and was a private citizen when he consulted with the then-president before the riot.

Before the judge returned the verdict, Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, argued passionately against the committee, saying Bannon simply did what his attorney told him to do amid Trump’s objections to executive privilege.

“Honestly, Mr. Bannon shouldn’t apologize. No American should apologize for the way Mr. Bannon handled this case,” he said.

Schoen also defended Bannon’s public statements about the committee: “To tell the truth about this committee or to speak your mind about this committee is not only acceptable in this country, it is an obligation if you believe it to be true,” said Schoen.

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Going into court Friday, Bannon told reporters, “This illegitimate regime, their court day is November 8 when the Biden administration ends.” Bannon did not speak during the hearing, saying only, “My attorneys have for me spoken, Your Honor.”

Bannon left the courthouse after the sentencing and said he believed Attorney General Merrick Garland would be indicted.

For his part, when asked about the verdict as President Joe Biden left the White House, he said, “I never have a reaction to Steve Bannon.”

Prosecutors had pushed for the maximum sentence, saying Bannon refused to answer routine questions about his income and insisted he could pay whatever the judge ordered. However, the judge felt the brief answers were an attempt to spare court staff a lengthy search for Bannon’s finances and imposed a reduced fine.

Bannon has also argued that he offered to testify after Trump waived executive privilege. But that was after the contempt charges were filed, and prosecutors said he would only agree to the testimony if the case was dropped.

Bannon also faces 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 the money would go towards building a wall on the US-Mexico border, but was instead involved in wirering hundreds of thousands of dollars to third-party companies and using them to make payments to two other people involved to direct the scheme.


Associated Press journalist Nathan Ellgren contributed to this report.

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