Steve Bannon Sentenced to Jail for Contempt of Congress
WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon was sentenced to four months in jail Friday in the first criminal conviction for contempt of Congress since the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s.
Bannon had been a political strategist for former President Donald Trump when he refused to testify after being subpoenaed by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.
U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols said during the sentencing hearing in Washington, D.C., that Bannon “has expressed no remorse for his actions” when he refused to comply with the subpoena.
He also fined Bannon $6,500.
Bannon’s attorneys said they would appeal, which prompted Nichols to say he should not have to serve jail time while the appeal is pending.
His conviction in July on two counts of contempt of Congress resulted from both declining to participate in a deposition and his refusal to turn over relevant documents.
Bannon’s attorneys argued he should be sentenced to probation only while prosecutors recommended a six-month jail term and $200,000 fine. Prosecutors said in court filings that Bannon pursued “a bad faith strategy of defiance and contempt.”
Nichols denied the defense team’s request for probation by explaining that the federal law required a minimum of one month in jail.
Bannon still has not testified about his knowledge of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which included inciting his supporters to march on the Capitol building while Congress certified a win for Joe Biden.
He said on his podcast the day before the Jan. 6 insurrection that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
The House Jan. 6 committee wanted to question him about whether his statement indicated he knew Trump or his supporters planned violence at the Capitol. He had left the White House in 2017 after a disagreement with Trump but remained in contact with other staff members at the time of the insurrection.
Bannon sat quietly when the judge delivered the sentence.
Bannon, who also is a media executive and former investment banker, faces other criminal charges in New York in connection with his “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign. He told contributors their money would be spent on completing a U.S.-Mexico border wall but prosecutors said he used much of the money to enrich himself and his associates.
He is charged with fraud, money laundering and conspiracy in state court. Trump pardoned him from similar federal charges.
In related news on Friday, the House Select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol formally subpoenaed Donald Trump to testify before it.
The committee’s letter to Trump said its investigation demonstrated that “you personally orchestrated and oversaw a multi-part effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to obstruct the peaceful transition of power.”
A refusal by Trump to testify is likely to set off a legal standoff over the extent Congress can exert authority over a president that could include criminal punishment.
Tom can be reached at [email protected]or on Twitter at @tramstack.