DOJ: Steve Bannon should get 6-month prison sentence for contempt conviction

WASHINGTON — Prosecutors on Monday recommended that Steve Bannon be sentenced to six months in prison while the former presidential adviser’s attorneys asked for probation after he was convicted in July of two counts of contempt of Congress.

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A jury found Bannon, who served as an adviser to former President Donald Trump, guilty of failing to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The panel had sought documents and testimony from Bannon last year. Under sentencing guidelines, each count carries a minimum sentence of one month and a maximum sentence of six months.

Prosecutors said Monday that Bannon should face the maximum “for his sustained, bad-faith contempt of Congress” and the maximum fine of $200,000, adding that the 68-year-old has “consistently acted in bad faith with the purpose of frustrating the Committee’s work.”

“The rioters who overran the Capitol on January 6 did not just attack a building — they assaulted the rule of law upon which this country was built and through which it endures. By flouting the Select Committee’s subpoena, (Bannon) exacerbated that assault,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing request.

“To this day, he continues to unlawfully withhold documents and testimony that stand to help the Committee’s authorized investigation to get to the bottom of what led to January 6 and ascertain what steps must be taken to ensure that it never happens again. That cannot be tolerated.”

Attorneys for Bannon asked that the court hold off on sentencing their client pending an appeal, writing in a memo that his refusal to testify or produce documents for the committee was part of “his good-faith reliance” on advice from his lawyer, Robert Costello.

“The ear of a sentencing judge listens for the note of contrition. Someone was convicted. Did they learn their lesson? This case requires something more. It involves larger themes that are important to every American,” attorneys for Bannon wrote in the memo.

“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? 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? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then a sentence of probation is warranted.”

Bannon’s attorneys said that Costello told Bannon that he did not have to appear or produce documents in response to the subpoena because of his role as a former top presidential adviser and possible executive privilege issues. Prosecutors said in court documents that an attorney for Trump, Justin Clark, told Costello that the former president had not invoked privilege related to Bannon. In a letter to Costello, Clark subsequently said he was angry because Costello “had completely misrepresented” to the committee what he’d told the attorney.

The committee investigating Jan. 6, 2021, issued a subpoena to Bannon in September 2021, saying that they believed he had information relevant to understanding what happened that day.

On Oct. 21, 2021, the House of Representatives found him in contempt of Congress. A grand jury later indicted him. Bannon did not put on a defense during his trial in July, NPR reported, though he often spoke outside the courthouse, on social media and on his War Room podcast about his decision not to comply with the subpoena.

He was convicted on July 22.

“We may have lost the battle here today, but we’re not going to lose the war,” he said after the verdict came down, according to CNN. “In the closing argument, the prosecutor missed one very important phrase — I stand with Trump and the Constitution and I will never back off that, ever.”

Bannon is set to be sentenced Friday afternoon, one year to the day after the House found him in contempt.