Stephen K. Bannon, a right-wing podcaster and longtime adviser to former president Donald Trump, was sentenced on Friday to four months in prison and a $6,500 fine for refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
Bannon is set to become the first person incarcerated for defying a congressional subpoena in more than half a century under a statute that is rarely prosecuted. The judge said he would stay the imposition of the penalty pending Bannon’s expected appeal.
Bannon’s case probably won’t be the final clash involving the work of the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot and preceding events, as lawmakers on Friday issued a subpoena to Trump himself.
“Flouting congressional subpoenas betrays a lack of respect for the legislative branch, which exercises the will of the people of the United States,” U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols said. Bannon “has expressed no remorse” and “has not taken responsibility for his refusal to comply with his subpoena.”
Bannon was convicted at trial in July on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to respond to the Jan. 6 committee’s request for testimony and documents. Both misdemeanors are punishable by at least 30 days and up to one year in jail. But Bannon has said he plans to appeal his conviction because Nichols ruled that Bannon could not argue at trial that he relied on his lawyer’s advice or believed his cooperation was barred by Trump’s claim of executive privilege.
Prosecutors asked for six months in jail and the maximum $200,000 fine, saying in a court filing that Bannon showed “a total disregard for government processes and the law” in ignoring the congressional subpoena, while smearing the House investigation and the justice system with “rhetoric that risks inspiring violence.” Bannon asked for probation, saying a mandatory-minimum jail sentence would be unlawful because his intent was not criminal or “willful.”
Bannon declined to speak in court Friday, saying only, “My lawyers have spoken for me, your honor.”
But in a raucous sidewalk appearance outside afterward, the bombastic Bannon claimed he would be vindicated by American voters next month if Republicans, as predicted, take control of the House of Representatives, and he said that Attorney General Merrick Garland would be impeached and “removed from office.”
“Today was my judgment day by the judge,” Bannon said as demonstrators called him a traitor. But, he added, “on November 8, the American people will weigh judgment, and we will prove the Biden administration ends [that] evening.”
Bannon is one of a half-dozen Trump associates to be convicted of federal crimes including fraud, making false statements and foreign influence-peddling, although Trump pardoned most of those who remained loyal before leaving office. More are now in legal jeopardy in investigations of attempts to subvert the 2020 election results as well as the storage of classified information at Trump’s Florida residence. M. Evan Corcoran, who is representing Bannon, has been counseled by colleagues to hire a criminal defense lawyer because he told the Justice Department that Trump had handed over all classified information at Mar-a-Lago before an FBI raid found more.
The committee had wanted to ask Bannon about his role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers into refusing to affirm the 2020 election results, culminating in the mob assault on the Capitol. Lawmakers in their subpoena noted that Bannon was involved in Trump supporters’ strategy meetings the day before the riot and that he predicted “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” — The Washington Post