Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday to four months in prison for defying a House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurgency at the United States Capitol.
Bannon was granted a stay of execution pending appeal by U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, who also imposed a $6,500 fine as part of the sentence. In July, Bannon was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress: one for refusing to appear for a deposition and the other for refusing to turn over documents.
Nichols handed down the sentence after stating that the law clearly states that contempt of Congress carries a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one month in prison. Bannon’s attorneys argued that the judge should have sentenced him to probation instead. Prosecutors had requested that Bannon be imprisoned for six months.
“In my opinion, Mr. Bannon has not accepted responsibility for his actions,” Nichols said before passing sentence. “Others must be discouraged from committing similar offenses.”
The House panel had requested testimony from Bannon regarding his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Bannon has yet to appear before the committee or provide any documents.
Prosecutors argued that Bannon, 68, deserved the longer sentence because he pursued a “bad faith strategy,” and his public statements disparaging the committee itself made it clear that he wanted to undermine their effort to get to the bottom of the violent attack and prevent it from happening again.
Meanwhile, the defense has stated that he was not acting in bad faith but was attempting to avoid running afoul of executive privilege objections raised by Trump when Bannon was first served with a committee subpoena last year. The former presidential adviser said he wanted a Trump lawyer in the room, but the committee refused.
The judge noted in imposing the sentence that Bannon did have a lawyer, and while his advice may have been “overly aggressive,” he did appear to be following it.
Many other former White House aides have testified solely on their own behalf. Bannon had left the White House in 2017 and was a private citizen when he met with the then-president prior to the riot.
Before the judge handed down the sentence, Bannon’s lawyer, David Schoen, delivered an impassioned argument against the committee, claiming that Bannon had simply done what his lawyer told him to do in response to Trump’s executive privilege objections.
“Quite frankly, Mr. Bannon should make no apology. No American should make any apology for the manner in which Mr. Bannon proceeded in this case,” he said.
“Telling the truth about this committee or speaking one’s mind about this committee, it’s not only acceptable in this country, but also an obligation if one believes it to be true,” Schoen said of Bannon’s public remarks about the committee.
Bannon told reporters as he walked into court on Friday, “This illegitimate regime, their judgment day is on November 8th, when the Biden administration ends.” During the hearing, Bannon said only, “My lawyers have spoken for me, your honor.”
After the sentencing, Bannon stated that he believed Attorney General Merrick Garland would be impeached.
Prosecutors sought the maximum fine because Bannon refused to answer routine questions about his income and insisted on paying whatever the judge ordered. The judge, though, found the short answers were an effort to spare court staff a lengthy effort of tracing Bannon’s finances and imposed a smaller fine.
Bannon also claims he offered to testify after Trump waived executive privilege. However, that was after the contempt charges were filed, and prosecutors claim that he would only agree to give the deposition if the case was dropped.
In addition to the “We Build the Wall” campaign, Bannon is facing separate money laundering, fraud, and conspiracy charges in New York. Bannon has entered a not-guilty plea.
Prosecutors claim Bannon misled donors by falsely promising that all funds would be used to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, but instead was involved in transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to third-party entities and using them to funnel payments to two other people involved in the scheme.