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Trump ally Steve Bannon must surrender to prison by July 1 to start contempt sentence, judge says

Published: June 6, 2024, 1:34pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, must report to prison by July 1 to serve his four-month sentence for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the U.S. Capitol insurrection, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington granted the Justice Department’s request to make Bannon begin his prison term after a federal appeals court panel last month upheld his contempt of Congress conviction.

Bannon is expected to seek a stay of the judge’s order, which could delay his surrender date.

“I’ve got great lawyers, and we’re going to go all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to,” he told reporters outside the courthouse. Bannon cast the case as politically motivated, saying “this is about shutting down the MAGA movement.”

“There’s not a prison built or jail built that will ever shut me up,” Bannon said.

Bannon was convicted nearly two years ago of two counts of contempt of Congress: one for refusing to sit for a deposition with the Jan. 6 House Committee and the other for refusing to provide documents related to his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Nichols, who was nominated to the bench by Trump, a Republican, had initially allowed him to remain free while he fought his conviction because the judge believed the case raised substantial legal questions. But during a hearing in Washington’s federal court, Nichols said the calculus changed after the appeals court panel said all of Bannon’s challenges lack merit.

“I do not believe the original basis for my stay exists any longer,” Nichols said.

Bannon can appeal his conviction to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. Prosecutor John Crabb told the judge it was “very unlikely” Bannon would succeed in getting his conviction thrown out.

Bannon’s lawyer at trial argued that the former adviser didn’t ignore the subpoena but was still engaged in good-faith negotiations with the congressional committee when he was charged.

The defense has said Bannon had been acting on the advice of his attorney at the time, who told him that the subpoena was invalid because the committee would not allow a Trump lawyer in the room and that Bannon could not determine what documents or testimony he could provide because Trump has asserted executive privilege.

Defense lawyer David Schoen told the judge it would be unfair to send Bannon to prison now because he would complete his entire prison sentence before he exhausted his appeals. Schoen said the case raises “serious constitutional issues” that need to be examined by the Supreme Court.

“In this country, we don’t send anyone to prison if they believe that they were doing something that complied with the law,” he told reporters.

A second Trump aide, trade adviser Peter Navarro, was also convicted of contempt of Congress. He reported to prison in March to serve his four-month sentence.

Navarro, too, had maintained that he couldn’t cooperate with the committee because Trump had invoked executive privilege. But courts have rejected that argument, finding Navarro couldn’t prove Trump had actually invoked it.

The House Jan. 6 committee’s final report asserted that Trump criminally engaged in a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the lawful results of the 2020 election and failed to act to stop his supporters from attacking the Capitol, concluding an extraordinary 18-month investigation into the former president and the violent insurrection.

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Bannon is also facing criminal charges in New York state court alleging he duped donors who gave money to build a wall along the U.S. southern border. Bannon has pleaded not guilty to money laundering, conspiracy, fraud and other charges, and that trial has been postponed until at least the end of September.