Former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon was sentenced Friday to four months in federal prison and $6,500 in fines after being found in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to comply last year with a subpoena issued by the House Select Committee on 6 January.
The punishment makes Bannon the first person to be incarcerated for contempt of Congress in more than half a century and sets the standard for future and additional contempt cases referred to the Justice Department by the select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.
The sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols in Washington was lighter than that recommended by prosecutors, who asked for six months in jail and the maximum $200,000 fine because Bannon refused to cooperate with pre-conviction investigations of court officials.
Bannon, 68, had asked the court for clemency and asked in court filings that his sentence be suspended pending appeal, his attorneys filed briefs with DC Circuit Court on Thursday or that the prison sentence to be reduced to house arrest – but the requests were refused.
The far-right provocateur now faces a battle to overturn the conviction on appeal, arguing that the case law that prevented his lawyers from challenging the ‘willful default’ definition of a subpoena, and arguing that he had acted on the recommendation of his lawyer, was overwhelmed.
Bannon has been charged with two counts of contempt of Congress after his refusal to comply with a select committee subpoena demanding documents and testimony last year prompted the House of Representatives to refer him to the Department of Justice for prosecution.
The select committee had sought Bannon’s cooperation after identifying him early in the investigation as a key player in planning the attack on the Capitol, who appeared to have prior knowledge of Trump’s efforts to prevent the certification of the election victory for Joe Biden in January. 6.
Among other moments of interest, the Guardian previously reported that Bannon received a call from Trump the day before the Capitol attack while in a Trump “war room” at the Willard Hotel and had been briefed on then-Vice President Mike Pence’s resistance to decertifying Biden’s victory.
Close contact with Trump in the days and hours leading up to the Capitol attack made Bannon an early target of the investigation, and his refusal to comply with the subpoena galvanized the resolution. of the panel to make an example of him with a dismissal for contempt.
During the five-day trial in July, Bannon’s legal team ultimately declined to call evidence after Nichols ruled out the “advice of counsel” argument because case law at the DC Circuit level , Licavoli c. United States 1961, held that this was not a valid defence. for defying a subpoena.
The Justice Department, according to Licavoli, had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bannon’s refusal to comply was willful and intentional, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn told the jury in closing arguments that he should find the matter simple.
“The defense wants to make this difficult, difficult and confusing,” Vaughn said in federal court in Washington. ” It’s not difficult. It’s not difficult. There were only two witnesses because it’s as simple as it sounds.
This meant that the only arguments left to Bannon were either that he was somehow confused about the deadlines listed on the subpoena, or that he did not realize that the deadlines were concrete and that the non- compliance with these dates would mean that he was in default.