Court Battles

Justice wants six-month jail sentence for Steve Bannon

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is calling for onetime White House strategist Stephen Bannon to serve six months of jail time and pay a $200,000 fine for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

In a separate filing, Bannon argued he should not to go jail “for relying on the advice of his lawyers,” asking the judge to instead impose probation.

The recommendation comes ahead of a Friday sentencing hearing for Bannon, who was among the first four people to be subpoenaed by the panel. Bannon claimed executive privilege barred him from testifying before the committee despite its interest in actions he took well after his short stint in the White House.

A $200,000 fine is the maximum for the two counts of contempt of Congress — one for refusing to testify, and the other for refusing to produce any of the documents requested in the deposition. 

That was a result, the DOJ said, of his refusal to participate in a review of his finances that helps determine the extent of a fine a defendant will pay.

“For his sustained, bad-faith contempt of Congress, the defendant should be sentenced to six months’ imprisonment—the top end of the Sentencing Guidelines’ range—and fined $200,000—based on his insistence on paying the maximum fine rather than cooperate with the Probation Office’s routine pre-sentencing financial investigation,” the DOJ wrote.

Bannon was subpoenaed by the panel in September of last year, with the full House voting to hold him in contempt roughly a month later.

That subpoena noted Bannon’s presence in the Trump campaign’s “war room” at the Willard Hotel, including involvement in a discussion with Republican lawmakers about objecting to election results.

They also sought to ask him about a comment of a Jan. 5, 2021, episode of his podcast where he said “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”

Bannon began his confrontation with the Justice Department with a fiery press conference he livestreamed, vowing to fight the charges.

“I’m telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. … We’re going on the offense,” Bannon said in November.

But shortly before trial, Bannon sought to cooperate with the committee, claiming Trump had freed him from the constraint of executive privilege that the DOJ had determined did not apply to him.

“On the eve of trial, he attempted an about-face, representing to the Committee that former President Donald J. Trump had waived executive privilege and freed the Defendant to cooperate. But this proved a hollow gesture; when he realized that his eleventh-hour stunt would not prevent his trial, the Defendant’s cooperative spirit vanished,” the DOJ wrote in Monday’s filing.

Ahead of trial, a judge rejected most of the arguments Bannon’s defense team could present before the jury, and ultimately his legal team decided to call no witnesses and did not introduce any new evidence at trial.

“Should a person who has spent a lifetime listening to experts – as a naval officer, investment banker, corporate executive, and Presidential advisor – be jailed for relying on the advice of his lawyers?” his attorneys wrote in the latest filing.

“Should a person be jailed where the prosecutor declined to prosecute others who were similarly situated – with the only difference being that this person uses their voice to express strongly held political views?” 

Bannon’s team said if the judge does impose jail time, he should be allowed to serve his sentence in home confinement.

Bannon’s upcoming sentencing comes over a year after he was first subpoenaed, a reminder of the delayed consequences for those that defy congressional investigators as the panel seeks to compel testimony from Trump.

Bannon is one of just two former White House officials where the DOJ accepted a criminal contempt referral from Congress. It chose not to pursue charges against former chief of staff Mark Meadows or communications guru Dan Scavino but has charged White House aide Peter Navarro.

Updated at 12:45 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Donald Trump Justice Department Steve Bannon Steve Bannon

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