Trump Advisor Faces Deadline to Explain Why He Should Avoid Jail

May 15, 2024 by Tom Ramstack
Trump Advisor Faces Deadline to Explain Why He Should Avoid Jail
Steve Bannon appears in court in New York, Jan. 12, 2023. (Steven Hirsch/New York Post via AP, Pool, File)

WASHINGTON — Former Trump administration advisor Steve Bannon has until Thursday to explain to a federal judge in Washington, D.C., why he should remain out of jail while he appeals his criminal conviction.

Federal prosecutors this week asked U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols to compel Bannon to begin his four-month sentence after being convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress.

Bannon won a stay of his sentence while he appealed the conviction. Last Friday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction.

“Consequently, there is no longer a ‘substantial question of law that is likely to result in a reversal or an order for a new trial,'” prosecutors wrote in their court filing this week.

Prosecutors were referring to the appearance that Bannon’s losses in two federal courts mean he is unlikely to succeed with another appeal. His attorneys said they wanted to ask the circuit court to rehear the case.

The judge gave Bannon’s attorneys until Thursday to respond to prosecutors’ motion that asked for immediate imposition of the jail sentence.

Bannon was convicted in October 2022 of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. 

The committee was seeking records and testimony that could indicate Bannon was complicit in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. Other witnesses said Bannon might have discussed with then-President Donald Trump some kind of civil disobedience before the insurrection.

Bannon argued during his appeal that he did not “willfully” defy a congressional subpoena. He said he was following the advice of his attorney.

“Willful” misconduct and the bad faith it implies is required for any kind of criminal conviction.

The circuit court ruled unanimously that proof of bad faith was not necessary to prove contempt of Congress. A simple refusal to comply with the subpoena was enough for a conviction because the purpose of the law is to uphold Congress’ power to investigate, the court said.

Bannon played a key role in Trump’s campaign strategy before he was elected in 2016. He remained a high-ranking advisor until his departure from the Trump administration in August 2017.

The House select committee sought Bannon’s records and testimony about his communications with Trump leading to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.

Former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was then the committee’s vice-chair, explained in written comments why lawmakers wanted to speak with Bannon. 

“Based on the committee’s investigation, it appears that Mr. Bannon had substantial advance knowledge of the plans for Jan. 6 and likely had an important role in formulating those plans,” Cheney said.

“The day before this all occurred — on Jan. 5 — Mr. Bannon publicly professed knowledge that ‘[a]ll hell is going to break loose tomorrow,’” Cheney wrote. “He forecast that the day would be ‘extraordinarily different’ than what most Americans expected. He said to his viewers on the air: ‘[S]o many people said, “If I was in a revolution, I would be in Washington.”‘ [W]ell, this is your time in history.”

Bannon also said on his podcast on Jan. 5, 2021, “All I can say is, strap in. … You made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day. So strap in. Let’s get ready. It’s all converging, and now we’re on the point of attack tomorrow.”

Before the House subpoenaed Bannon, Cheney said Bannon and Trump’s statements “suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of Jan. 6.”

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