A sentence of four months in prison that former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was sentenced was shorter than the six months prosecutors were seeking, but remains a remarkable punishment and a boost to the House Jan. 6 committee’s efforts.
As lawmakers have struggled for years to get Trump allies to participate in their investigations, the conviction was a wake-up call for other reluctant witnesses as the Jan. 6 House inquiry could enter its final stages. month. The sentence was also handed down just hours before the select committee unveiled a subpoena to former President Donald Trump.
Although the sentence was a major rebuke to Bannon’s request to receive only probation for the offense, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols sided with Bannon in ruling that the former White House would not have to serve the prison sentence until his conviction appeal plays out. out. His legal team will have 14 days to file the appeal, and if they don’t, Bannon will have to arrange to surrender voluntarily by Nov. 15.
Here’s what happened during the sentencing proceedings, which lasted more than two hours on Friday morning.
Nichols said Bannon failed to demonstrate responsibility for his conduct, a factor that ultimately led the judge to a harsher sentence. “He expressed no remorse for his actions,” Nichols said during the proceedings, and the judge pointed out that Bannon had not shown that he would comply with the subpoenas.
Other factors also weighed in favor of a substantial sentence, the judge said. There were “issues,” the judge said, with Bannon’s position that Trump had made an assertion of executive privilege that barred Bannon from testifying or handing over documents.
Bannon was also a private citizen, having been absent from government for years, Nichols said. He said it was possible that some of the requested information was covered by privilege, the judge noted, but Bannon was less likely to have privileged documents than others. Bannon’s failure to turn over documents to the committee, or even to compile a log of privilege, also weighed against him, the judge said, and Nichols pressed his lawyers on this point several times during the hearing.
The judge also concluded that “Mr. Bannon appears to have perhaps a very small risk of reoffending,” at least as far as subpoenas go.
There were factors that weighed in favor of Bannon, the judge said before announcing the sentence.
Bannon’s subpoena presented potential legal issues, the judge said, because it involved someone who had spoken to the president.
“Mr. Bannon didn’t completely ignore the fact that he had received a subpoena,” Nichols said, pointing to Bannon’s use of a lawyer who engaged with the committee. That lawmakers acted quickly to scorn Bannon, rather than file a civil suit to enforce the subpoena, also cut in his favor, the judge said.
Bannon had complied with the conditions of Nichols’ release before trial and in court proceedings.
Arguing for a six-month prison sentence, U.S. attorney JP Cooney told Nichols that all the government was asking was that Bannon be “treated like every other citizen.”
Citizens are showing up every day to comply with grand jury subpoenas, and “those citizens are putting themselves in harm’s way to cooperate,” Cooney said.
“This man, the defendant, a man of means, a public figure, suffered none of these threats for testifying,” the prosecutor argued, adding that Bannon “never lifted a finger” to find a responsive document or speak to the committee.
Bannon “thumbed his nose at Congress,” Cooney said, adding that “the defendant is not above the law.”
As he pleaded for clemency, Bannon’s attorney David Schoen chastised the idea that a lack of remorse warranted a harsher sentence.
“Mr. Bannon shouldn’t apologize,” Schoen said, saying the accusation went against the Constitution. “There’s nothing here to deter, there’s nothing here to to punish.”
Schoen’s impassioned remarks lasted more than half an hour, his voice rising at times. He made several extensive references to James Madison, appearing to read a paperback copy of The Federalist Papers, and he described the government’s approach to the case as “tyranny”.
He said the way Bannon approached the subpoena, prioritizing concerns about executive privilege, was the “kind of conduct we should encourage in this country.” He accused the DOJ of “attempting to make an example of Mr. Bannon”.
Bannon — who didn’t wear a suit for the proceedings, but instead wore dark pants and an olive green barn coat — kept a stoic face throughout Friday’s proceedings. He smirked, however, when the judge announced he would not have to serve his sentence until the appeal was heard.
On Friday night, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Schoen why his client didn’t comply with the committee’s subpoena, then invoked the Fifth Amendment, as did other former Trump officials who testified before the committee.
“Because he’s Steve Bannon,” Schoen said on “CNN Tonight with Jake Tapper,” adding, “He doesn’t like the optics of taking the Fifth Amendment.”
This story was updated after Bannon’s conviction.