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Bannon makes emergency appeal to stay out of prison

Trump ally ordered to report to prison by July 1 for contempt of Congress convictions

Steve Bannon, former adviser to former President Donald Trump, arrives for sentencing in October 2022 on contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena from the House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Steve Bannon, former adviser to former President Donald Trump, arrives for sentencing in October 2022 on contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena from the House select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court in Washington to let him stay out of prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress convictions, including potentially to the Supreme Court.

Last week, Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Bannon to report to prison July 1 for a four-month prison sentence. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected Bannon’s appeal of those convictions in May.

Bannon’s emergency filing Tuesday, to that same appeals court, preludes a likely Supreme Court filing over a rare contempt of Congress conviction. Bannon asked the appeals court to give an answer by June 18, and said he “has retained experienced Supreme Court counsel.”

The filing referred to Bannon’s conviction as a “landmark case” for contempt of Congress, while also pointing out the “political realities” of him serving a prison sentence in the lead-up to the 2024 election.

“The government seeks to imprison Mr. Bannon for the four-month period leading up to the November election, when millions of Americans look to him for information on important campaign issues,” the filing said.

The argument in the motion resembled some of former President Donald Trump’s claims of “election interference” in the criminal probes against him.

A federal jury convicted Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress in 2022, following a weeklong trial. Bannon had refused to cooperate with the House select panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and ignored subpoenas seeking testimony and documents related to the attack.

Bannon argued at the time and with the appeals court that he had been advised by his attorney that the subpoena sought information that was protected by executive privilege. Executive privilege is a legal doctrine that allows the president to keep secret certain information about his communications with close advisers.

Bannon argued in Tuesday’s filing that unless he is allowed to remain free and pursue his appeal, “future disagreements about subpoena compliance will be met not with negotiation — but with indictments, especially when the White House changes political parties.”

In May, a three-judge panel unanimously upheld Bannon’s conviction, ruling that he could not rely on his then-attorney’s advice that executive privilege allowed him to ignore the subpoena.

Bannon, who co-founded Breitbart News and served as CEO of Trump’s 2016 election campaign, last served in the White House in 2017.

After receiving a subpoena from the House panel, Bannon did not produce any documents or appear for a deposition, claiming the information they sought was subject to executive privilege.

Nichols had allowed Bannon to remain free while the D.C. Circuit appeal was pending but ordered him to report to prison at a hearing last week.

Bannon was one of two witnesses who defied subpoenas from that panel who faced prosecutions for contempt of Congress.

Former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro is currently serving a four-month prison term for his two convictions for contempt of Congress.

Earlier this year, a different panel of the D.C. Circuit, as well as the Supreme Court, denied Navarro’s effort to stay out of prison pending an appeal of his contempt of Congress convictions.

The trial judge in Navarro’s case did not give Navarro a reprieve while he appealed to the D.C. Circuit, and Navarro’s appeal is still pending before the appeals court.

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