Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon must serve time in prison for contempt of Congress after he defied a subpoena from the House January 6 Committee, a federal judge ruled Friday, imposing a harsher sentence than Bannon’s attorneys had asked for—but also pausing the sentence until Bannon can appeal his case.
He also stayed the sentence while Bannon appeals his ruling, however—meaning he won’t go to prison before the appeal plays out—though Politico reports Nichols stressed that appeal must be “timely.”
Nichols said before issuing his ruling that Bannon “has not taken responsibility for his actions” by defying the subpoena and that defying the subpoenas “betrays a lack of respect for the legislative branch,” but the Trump-appointed judge also argued Congress should have tried to sue Bannon first before it pursued criminal charges against him.
Bannon was found guilty in July on two counts of contempt of Congress, one count for not turning over records to the House January 6 Committee and another count for refusing to testify.
The crimes carried a minimum sentence of 30 days in prison and a maximum sentence of a year—along with a $100,000 fine for each charge—making it possible Nichols could have sentenced Bannon to up to two years in prison.
The Justice Department had asked Nichols to sentence Bannon to six months in prison—the maximum sentence recommended under the specific sentencing guidelines for Bannon’s offenses—and a $200,000 fine, while Bannon asked the judge to sentence him to only probation.
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Bannon is expected to appeal the ruling against him, though it’s unclear whether that will succeed. If Bannon does not file a “timely” appeal, Nichols ordered he must report to prison by November 15, CBS News reports. In addition to Bannon, former Trump adviser Peter Navarro has also been indicted for contempt of Congress for defying the House committee’s subpoena. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, and his case will go to trial in November.
Bannon’s attorneys had argued he shouldn’t have to face any prison time or punishment because he was merely acting on the advice of his counsel by defying the subpoena and didn’t know what he was doing was wrong. “Quite frankly, Mr. Bannon should make no apology. … There is nothing here to punish,” Bannon’s attorney David Schoen told the court on Friday ahead of Bannon’s sentencing, NBC News reports, also criticizing the House January 6 Committee and its “partisan political agenda.”
In addition to the contempt of Congress charges, Bannon has also been indicted in New York on four counts of money laundering, conspiracy and scheme to defraud, as part of the “We Build the Wall” fundraising campaign that purported to raise funds for a private border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges, which were filed after he was separately indicted in federal court for the scheme. Those federal charges have all been dropped, however, after Bannon was pardoned by former President Donald Trump.
The House found Bannon in contempt of Congress in January after he refused to comply the January 6 committee’s subpoena for documents and testimony, leading lawmakers to refer the issue to the Justice Department, which ultimately indicted him for contempt. Bannon had argued he shouldn’t be forced to comply with the lawsuit because he was shielded by executive privilege through his communications with Trump, which Nichols rejected, sending the case to trial. Bannon is one of a slew of Trump allies who have refused to comply with subpoenas from the House committee, though none except Navarro have so far faced similar legal action for refusing to comply. The House also found former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump social media director Dan Scavino to be in contempt for defying their subpoenas, but the Justice Department ultimately declined to indict them. The House committee is expected to soon issue a subpoena to Trump himself for documents and testimony, which the ex-president has so far refused to say if he’ll comply with.