Steve Bannon sentenced to 4 months in prison for criminal contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, ex-White House strategist and adviser to former President Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday to four months in federal prison and a $6,500 fine for refusing to appear before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols sentenced Bannon to four months each on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, but the prison terms will be served concurrently.

A jury found Bannon guilty of the two counts in July — one for refusing to appear for a deposition before the panel and the other for refusing to produce requested documents. Each count carries a minimum potential sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year in prison, as well as a fine of $100 to $100,000.

Federal prosecutors sought six months behind bars, while Bannon’s attorneys asked the court for probation. Bannon himself declined to address the court in his own defense.

Nichols released Bannon pending an appeal by his attorneys. The judge set Nov. 15 as a tentative deadline for Bannon to surrender to serve his prison term.

Steve Bannon raises his arm to point in front of someone holding a sign saying: Stop Hating Each Other Because You Disagree.
Steve Bannon, former White House strategist under President Donald Trump, outside U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Friday, before the verdict was handed down. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

In remarks outside the courthouse after the hearing, Bannon responded to the prosecution's accusations that he considered himself above the law, telling reporters, "This thing about I'm above the law is a total lie."

He also said he was going to pursue a vigorous appeal against Nichols's sentence and declared that on Nov. 8 — Election Day — the "illegal Biden regime" is going to face "judgment ... and we know where that's going."

During the hearing, Nichols noted that in response to a subpoena from the House Jan. 6 committee, Bannon had produced no documents requested by the committee or given any testimony to the panel. Bannon and his lawyers argued that he did not have to comply with such requests because his dealings with Trump while Trump was president were covered by executive privilege, although they noted that Trump had withdrawn relevant executive privilege claims in July.

In arguments to the judge, defense lawyer David Schoen insisted that Bannon "had a principled reason for not complying with the subpoena" issued by the committee, although he did engage in contact with the panel.

"He gave the committee an out. ... [Bannon] wanted to find a way to comply," Schoen said, adding that "Mr. Bannon never at any time acted as if he was above the law. ... What the prosecution really wants is to punish Bannon for speaking out against committee abuses of its authority."

As his lawyer David Schoen speaks at a bank of microphones, Steve Bannon, surrounded by reporters, looks pensive.
Bannon speaks to reporters with his attorney David Schoen after his sentencing hearing Friday. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Prosecutor J.P. Cooney told the judge that in the government's view, "Mr. Bannon could not have been in more contempt of Congress. ... This man chose ... to thumb his nose at Congress. Your honor, the defendant is not above the law."

Cooney said Bannon had told the House committee that he would only appear before it "on my terms" and said Bannon's intent was to make "a public spectacle of the committee hearing."

Nichols's ruling that Bannon should serve a prison term for refusing to comply with the committee is not the only threat of possible incarceration that the former Trump adviser is facing.

Last month, Bannon was indicted in New York on charges of money laundering, conspiracy and scheming to defraud for his alleged role in a fundraising scheme to build a private wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment and was released without bail.

Former President Donald Trump appears on a large screen above the assembled members of the panel.
At an Oct. 13 hearing of the House Jan. 6 committee, a video of former President Donald Trump is played. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

After he left the White House, Bannon engaged in other ambitious right-wing political campaigns that met with limited success.

Shortly after his departure, he linked up with conservative European activists in what was promoted as a political campaign to destroy the European Union. He had trouble, however, enlisting a significant group of Europeans to support the movement, which eventually petered out.

Bannon also became involved in a plan to set up, with support from at least one conservative American Catholic cardinal, a training school teaching right-wing Catholic religious and political doctrine at a former monastery in Italy. That plan also fell apart, after the Italian government revoked the lease on the monastery taken out by the group Bannon supported.

Raymond Burke, a Catholic cardinal from the U.S. who initially supported Bannon's plan, later withdrew his backing from the project. In a text message on Thursday, Benjamin Harnwell, a conservative British activist who was one of the training school's principal founders, confirmed that his organization was no longer based in the monastery.