Skip to content

Justice Department requests prison sentence for Steve Bannon

Former Trump adviser faces sentencing Friday on contempt of Congress charge related to Jan. 6 investigation

Steve Bannon, with his attorney David Schoen, left, is seen after being found guilty on contempt of Congress charges outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington in July.
Steve Bannon, with his attorney David Schoen, left, is seen after being found guilty on contempt of Congress charges outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington in July. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Justice Department recommended a sentence of six months in prison and a $200,000 fine for Steve Bannon on charges that he defied a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Bannon, an ally of former President Donald Trump who served as a White House adviser, was convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress in July after a weeklong trial. His sentencing hearing is set for Friday; he faces a minimum sentence of one month, but his attorneys plan to argue for a sentence of probation.

The DOJ argued in a filing Monday that Bannon’s “bad-faith” efforts to defy the Jan. 6 committee merited the maximum sentence under the guidelines for contempt of Congress.

“From the time he was initially subpoenaed, the Defendant has shown that his true reasons for total noncompliance have nothing to do with his purported respect for the Constitution, the rule of law, or executive privilege, and everything to do with his personal disdain for the members of Congress sitting on the Committee and their effort to investigate the attack on our country’s peaceful transfer of power,” the government wrote.

In the sentencing memorandum, the government emphasized the steps Bannon took over more than a year to avoid testifying to the House panel. That included a last-minute about-face whereby Bannon offered to testify just before the trial in exchange for dropping the charges.

“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 government wrote.

Bannon seeks probation

Bannon’s attorneys, in a separate sentencing memorandum filed Monday, argued he should receive only probation. Bannon acted on his lawyer’s advice not to comply, the memorandum said, after Trump said his former adviser’s testimony could be subject to executive privilege.

“Mr. Bannon was convicted without being allowed to introduce evidence negating willfulness, and specifically, evidence that he relied in good faith on his counsel’s advice,” the memorandum said.

The memorandum also hinted at an appeal, particularly over the jury instructions and restrictions the judge placed on Bannon’s ability to introduce evidence at trial.

The conviction did not compel Bannon to comply with the committee, which held its latest hearing last week.

That hearing included several clips of Bannon’s public remarks in which he spoke about Trump’s plan to declare victory in the 2020 election regardless of the actual result.

Committee Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., painted Bannon among a constellation of Trump allies who refused to cooperate with the panel or refused to answer questions under their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when asked about the former president.

During last week’s hearing, at which the panel voted to subpoena Trump, Cheney said they also had enough evidence to make criminal referrals separate from their existing contempt of Congress referrals of Bannon and others.

Bannon, who co-founded Breitbart News, worked as the CEO of Trump’s election campaign in 2016 and later became a senior adviser in the Trump administration. He left the White House in 2017.

The panel issued a subpoena last September, and the House voted to hold him in criminal contempt of Congress in October. A federal grand jury indicted Bannon on both charges in November.

Former White House adviser Peter Navarro also faces criminal contempt charges for his refusal to cooperate with the committee. Navarro is set to stand trial next month.

The Justice Department declined to charge two others who were held in contempt, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former spokesman Dan Scavino.

At the trial in July, Bannon did not testify himself and his defense did not call any witnesses on his behalf. After the trial, Bannon’s attorney David Schoen vowed to appeal the case.

Last month, the judge in the case rejected Bannon’s effort to secure a new trial after Bannon objected to the instructions given to the jury as well as his inability to call members of the panel to testify.

Recent Stories

Total eclipse of the Hart (and Russell buildings) — Congressional Hits and Misses

House plans to send Mayorkas impeachment articles to Senate on Tuesday

Harris sticks with Agriculture spending, Amodei likely to head DHS panel

Editor’s Note: What passes for normal in Congress

House approves surveillance authority reauthorization bill

White House rattles its saber with warnings to Iran, China about attacking US allies