Former top Trump White House advisor turned far-right wing extremist Steve Bannon has been sentenced to four months in prison by a federal judge, for contempt of Congress. The former executive chairman of Breitbart News and former board member of the infamous data-analytics firm Cambridge Analytica refused to comply with a valid and legal subpoena from the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.
“Others must be deterred from committing similar crimes,” U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee who clerked with Justice Clarence Thomas, said as he passed down the sentence. He also imposed a fine of $6500. The four month sentence is actually two, but to be served concurrently.
The sentence will be delayed to allow Bannon time to appeal, meaning he was not taken into custody and does not have to go to jail immediately. If he chooses to not appeal he is to report to prison on November 15.
Nichols had told the court as he began sentencing, “Mr. Bannon has not provided a single document,” and “has not provided any testimony on any topic.”
“Mr Bannon was a private citizen,” Judge Nichols continued. “Some of the information sought by the subpoena is information under which no conceivable claim of executive privilege could’ve been made.”
“The January 6th committee has every right to investigate what happened that day,” Nichols told Bannon and his attorneys, adding, and “what can be done to prevent similar .. events from happening in the future.”
Prosecutors had asked Judge Nichols to give Bannon the maximum sentence allowed, which would be six months in prison and a fine of $200,000.
Judge Nichols appeared to chastise the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack for not suing Bannon to enforce their subpoena.
CBS News’ Scott Macfarlane was at the D.C. federal courthouse and posted this photo of Bannon.
Sentencing is beginning … standby
— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) October 21, 2022
Walking into he courthouse Bannon decreed the Biden administration “illegitimate,” and said it will end on November 8.
“The governemnt further argues that Mr. Bannon has not expressed remorse and has attacked the select committee at every turn. On this point I agree with the government,” Judge Nichols said, according to NBC News’ Daniel Barnes. “He has expressed no remorse for his actions.”
Bannon’s attorney backed up his client’s behavior.
“Quite frankly, Mr. Bannon should make no apology. No American should make an apology for the way Mr. Bannon proceeded in this case,” David Schoen told the court, even after Judge Nichols noted Bannon’s attacks on the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.
Bannon’s attorneys had asked for probation, which DOJ adamantly, in court documents, contested.
“In my view the statute sets out a mandatory minimum of one month and a mandatory maximum of 12 months,” Judge Nichols said.
J.P. Cooney, a prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s office, defended the request for fining Bannon $200,000 because “that is exactly what the defendant has asked for.”
Barnes reports that “Bannon refused to comply with the probation office’s financial investigation, Cooney says.”
Bannon reportedly also told the prosecutor’s office, “I am willing and able to pay any fine levied against me.”
Prosecutors, arguing for the six month sentence, told Judge Nichols, “This man, the defendant, a man of means, a public figure … chose, hiding behind the fabricated claim of executive privilege and advice of counsel, to thumb his nose” at Congress, according to Politico’s Kyle Cheney.
Bannon had claimed he was exempt from honoring the subpoena from the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, citing executive privilege, which, as the country later learned, Donald Trump had not invoked in Bannon’s case – not that he would have been able to, as only the sitting U.S. President has that authority.
“DOJ says that if Bannon were genuinely concerned about executive privilege, then he would’ve complied with the Jan. 6 committee subpoena as soon as Trump purported to ‘waive’ it over the summer,” Cheney reports. “But that’s not what he did, DOJ says.”
Bannon’s attorney David Schoen repeatedly delivered caustic attacks about the House Select Committee.
CBS News’ Scott Macfarlane noted that Schoen “is quoting the Federalist Papers (James Madison) about separation of powers… talking about ‘tyranny,’” but added: “Bannon had a hard copy of the Financial Times under his arm as he walked toward courtroom (let’s see if that’s something he wants to show off to cameras as he departs).”
He also was caught “quoting Montesquieu,” and repeatedly accused the January 6 Committee of having a “partisan political agenda.”
Schoen repeatedly told Judge Nichols that Bannon was merely acting on his conscience and understanding of the Constitution, and “acting on principle.” Legal experts say that is not a legitimate defense.
Donald Trump pardoned Bannon from federal charges involving conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering surrounding his We Build the Wall fundraising campaign, but he is now facing similar state charges.