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US Urges 6-month Sentence for Ex-Trump Adviser Bannon Over Contempt Conviction

Published: October 17, 2022
Former advisor to former President Donald Trump Steve Bannon arrives for a court appearance at NYS Supreme Court on Oct. 04, 2022 in New York City. (Image: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday asked a federal judge to sentence former President Donald Trump’s adviser Steve Bannon to six months behind bars, saying he pursued a “bad faith strategy of defiance and contempt” against the congressional committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Bannon, 68, an influential far-right political figure, was convicted in July on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena.

Each count is punishable by between 30 days to one year in prison and a fine ranging between $100 to $100,000.

He is due to be sentenced before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols on Friday morning.

Prosecutors told Nichols in their sentencing recommendation on Monday that Bannon’s actions, including his refusal to this day to produce “a single document” to the congressional committee, led them to recommend a prison sentence at the top of the U.S. guidelines range.

They also urged the judge to impose the maximum fine of $200,000, which they said they based on Bannon’s “insistence on paying the maximum fine rather than cooperate with the Probation Office’s routine pre-sentencing financial investigation.”

“Throughout the pendency of this case, the defendant has exploited his notoriety — through courthouse press conferences and his War Room podcast — to display to the public the source of his bad-faith refusal to comply with the committee’s subpoena: a total disregard for government processes and the law,” prosecutors wrote in their filing.

“The defendant’s statements prove that his contempt was not aimed at protecting executive privilege or the Constitution, rather it was aimed at undermining the committee’s efforts to investigate an historic attack on government.”

Bannon’s attorneys filed a sentencing memo on Monday saying their client should be sentenced to probation only. If the judge insists on incarceration, then Bannon should be permitted to serve his sentence at home, and not in prison, they said.

In their memo, they argued that Bannon was convicted on statutes governed by “outdated” caselaw, and that he relied on his attorney’s legal advice by not appearing before the committee.

“The facts of this case show that Mr. Bannon’s conduct was based on his good-faith reliance on his lawyer’s advice,” they wrote.

During the trial, Nichols limited the scope of Bannon’s defense.

He was barred from arguing that he believed his communications with Trump were subject to a legal doctrine called executive privilege that can keep certain presidential communications confidential. He was also prohibited from arguing he relied upon an attorney’s legal advice in refusing to comply.

Bannon was a key adviser to the Republican Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, then served as his chief White House strategist during 2017 before a falling out between them that was later patched up.

While he was awaiting sentencing for his contempt of Congress conviction, he was separately indicted by a New York state grand jury on money laundering and conspiracy charges for allegedly deceiving donors in an effort to help Trump build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Bannon, who pleaded not guilty, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted on those charges.

The state charges are similar to federal charges filed against Bannon and several others in August 2020.

Bannon was never convicted in the federal case, after Trump pardoned him during the final hours of his presidency.

By Reuters (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by David Gregorio)