The Justice Department wants former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to serve a six-month prison sentence and pay $200,000 in fines after he was convicted of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the House January 6 Committee, it told a federal court on Monday—while Bannon’s attorneys think he should only be sentenced to probation.
The DOJ filed a sentencing memo in Bannon’s case on Monday recommending that U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols impose a six-month sentence on Bannon, ahead of the ex-Trump adviser’s official sentencing on October 21.
Bannon was convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress in July—one for not turning documents over to the House Jan. 6 committee and one for not testifying—which each carried a minimum prison sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year.
The DOJ accused Bannon of “pursu[ing] a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt” in its memo, noting that the six-month recommendation is at the highest end of the Sentencing Guidelines for Bannon’s specific offense.
Bannon should get the maximum prison sentence under the sentencing guidelines because “a person could have shown no greater contempt” than Bannon did in defying the committee’s subpoena, the DOJ argued, also noting the “seriousness” of Bannon refusing to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the “violent attack” on the Capitol and the “unprecedented effort” to overturn the 2020 election.
Bannon “has consistently and thoroughly opted for fealty to a personal agenda” rather than care about the rule of law, the DOJ argued, noting that the ex-Trump adviser has repeatedly used his platform to attack the January 6 committee and refused to provide information to the Probation Office to help it determine his ability to pay a fine.
Attorneys for Bannon also submitted their sentencing memo to the court on Monday, which argues the ex-adviser should only be sentenced to probation and the court should pause his sentencing as he appeals the case—alleging Bannon didn’t believe he was acting unlawfully by defying the subpoena and was merely acting “based on his good-faith reliance on his lawyer’s advice.”
“From the time he was initially subpoenaed, [Bannon] 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 DOJ argued in its sentencing memo. “His noncompliance has been complete and unremitting.”
“Imposing a sentence of incarceration without requiring proof that Mr. Bannon knew that his conduct was wrong … would violate his rights under the 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendments to the United States Constitution,” Bannon’s lawyers wrote in their sentencing memo, arguing federal law states that someone can only be held in contempt if they’ve “willfully” defied a subpoena.
What We Don’t Know
While the DOJ and Bannon both made their recommendations to the court on what the former adviser’s sentence should be, Bannon’s actual fate will be up to Nichols and won’t be known until he announces it on October 21. If Nichols does order Bannon to be incarcerated, Bannon’s attorneys have asked that his sentence be served as home confinement instead of in prison, which would also be up to the judge to decide.
Bannon is the first person to be convicted of contempt of Congress at trial since 1974, after he defied the House January 6 committee’s subpoena for his documents and testimony. The ex-Trump adviser claimed his conversations with former President Donald Trump were shielded under executive privilege as a justification not to testify, which Nichols rejected, and he was convicted by a jury after less than three hours of deliberations. Bannon and Trump had several phone conversations leading up to the January 6 riot suggesting he had knowledge of Trump’s post-election plans and knowledge of the attack, the House committee has said in public hearings. Bannon told associates before the election that Trump was planning to declare victory even if he didn’t win, and he said on January 5 that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
What To Watch For
Bannon is one of many Trump allies who have refused to comply with subpoenas from the House January 6 committee, and former advisor Peter Navarro has also been indicted by the DOJ for contempt of Congress and could face similar consequences. It’s unclear how many other Trump allies could face charges for not cooperating with the committee, however: while lawmakers voted to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump social media director Dan Scavino in contempt, for instance, the DOJ ultimately declined to indict them.
Bannon’s contempt of Congress conviction is not the only legal issue he faces. The Trump ally was also indicted in New York in September for his involvement in the “We Build the Wall” scheme to privately fund a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, in which he’s facing four counts of money laundering, conspiracy and scheme to defraud. (Bannon has pleaded not guilty.) He was previously indicted on similar charges by federal prosecutors over the scheme, but he was cleared of all charges after former President Donald Trump pardoned him.