Steve Bannon Sentenced to 4 Months for Defying Jan. 6 Subpoena

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(Bloomberg) -- Steve Bannon, a longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump, was ordered to spend four months in jail and pay a $6,500 fine for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the attack on the US Capitol.

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Bannon, 68, was sentenced by US District Judge Carl J. Nichols in court in Washington Friday after a jury in July found him guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to testify and hand over documents to the Jan. 6 committee.

Nichols said he would release Bannon from the sentence for now if he files a timely appeal.

Outside the courthouse, as he was surrounded by a crowd calling him a “traitor” and screaming “lock him up,” Bannon vowed that he would appeal.

“This thing about ‘I’m above the law’ is an absolute and total lie,” Bannon said. He added that on Nov. 8, the date of the midterm elections for control of Congress, the American people are going to pass “judgment on the illegitimate Biden regime.”

During the hearing Friday, Bannon’s attorneys had argued the offense level should be lowered because he accepted responsibility. But Nichols disagreed and said that Bannon “expressed no remorse for his actions” and he has yet to show an intention to comply with the subpoena.

The government asked that Bannon be sentenced to the maximum of six months in prison and pay a $200,000 fine. His defense attorneys say he should only have to undergo probation, or should be able to serve any sentence in home confinement.

Nichols said that flouting the congressional subpoena showed a “lack of respect” for the legislative branch, but he didn’t set the maximum sentence because Bannon was following the advice of his attorney at the time to claim Trump exerted executive privilege -- which the judge said was “overly aggressive and misguided.”

Before the sentencing, prosecutor J.P. Cooney told the judge that Bannon chose to hide behind a claim of executive privilege and advice of counsel, and thumbed his nose at requests from the Jan. 6 congressional committee. “Your honor, the defendant is not above the law,” Cooney said.

Bannon, a right-wing media figure who is credited with helping Trump win the presidency in 2016, is so far the only person in the former president’s circle who has been tried for refusing to cooperate with the House committee. Peter Navarro, Trump’s former trade adviser, faces similar charges.

Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, argued that his client didn’t flout the law or have any intention to do anything unlawful. He complied with the advice from his lawyer that he was bound by executive privilege, said Schoen. He followed the only lawful course he could take.

“That’s not a man who thinks he is above the law,” Schoen said. He said Bannon is upholding “the greatest values we hold in this country with respect to the Constitution.”

When given the opportunity to speak in court, Bannon said, “My lawyers have spoken for me, your honor.”

In court, Schoen argued against a mandatory minimum prison sentence in urging the judge to sentence his client to probation. “We don’t put someone in prison unless they believe they did something wrong,” he said.

Nichols disagreed with the defense and said there is a mandatory minimum and the statute is clear and sets a one month minimum per charge.

The government, in a filing, had urged the judge for a harsher sentence, citing Bannon’s continued refusal to comply with the subpoena and claiming those actions “exacerbated the assault on the Capitol.”

‘Bad Faith’

Bannon “has never taken a single step to comply with the Committee’s subpoena and has acted in bad faith throughout by claiming he was merely acting on former President Trump’s instructions -- even though former President Trump’s attorney made clear he was not,” according to a government filing.

Criminal contempt of Congress, while rarely prosecuted, has usually resulted in prison sentences, according to the government. In their sentencing memo, prosecutors referenced several examples from the 1960s, including a six-month sentence given to organized crime boss Peter Licavoli, who was convicted for refusing to testify in response to a Congressional subpoena. Bannon’s lawyers wrote in a filing that their client shouldn’t be put in the same camp as Licavoli, who had a lengthy criminal history at the time of his sentencing.

In pushing for a lighter sentence, Bannon’s lawyers detailed in a filing their client’s rise from working-class beginnings, citing his military career, Ivy-League education and time as a Trump adviser.

Bannon refused to disclose information about his personal finances to the probation office responsible for assessing his ability to pay fines, according to the government sentencing memo. Instead, Bannon insisted he would be able to pay any fine imposed, the memo shows.

Meanwhile, Bannon is fighting state charges he defrauded contributors to a privately funded US-Mexico border wall out of more than $15 million. Bannon has pleaded not guilty to money-laundering, fraud and conspiracy. The federal government brought a similar case against Bannon, but Trump pardoned him before the case went to trial.

(Updates with Bannon’s attorney saying they will appeal.)

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