Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon arrives at federal court in Washington to be sentenced -- Bannon was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress
Washington (AFP) - Donald Trump’s former aide Steve Bannon was sentenced Friday to four months in prison for refusing to testify in the congressional probe of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.
One of the masterminds behind Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and victory, Bannon was found guilty on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena to testify over the riot by the former president’s supporters.
Bannon, who was also fined $6,500, was permitted by the judge to remain free while he fights what his lawyer vowed would be a “bulletproof” appeal.
The longtime Trump strategist struck a defiant tone upon leaving the federal court in Washington – lashing out at President Joe Biden and the Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives.
“Today was my judgment day by the judge,” Bannon told reporters outside. “On November 8th there’s going to have judgment on the illegitimate Biden regime,” he vowed – in reference to the upcoming midterm elections.
“And we know which way that is going,” he said. “The Biden administration ends on the evening of the 8th of November.”
Asked by reporters at the White House for a reaction to the Bannon sentencing, Biden answered dismissively: “I never have a reaction to Steve Bannon.”
- ‘Undeniably serious’ -
The 68-year-old Bannon was greeted on arrival at the courthouse early Friday by protesters yelling “Traitor” Fascist!”
His prison sentence was less than the six months requested by the Justice Department, but more than the probation Bannon’s attorneys had sought.
Bannon had argued that he declined to appear before the Capitol riot probe panel upon advice from his lawyer that doing so would violate Trump’s executive privilege.
But he also said he felt that the investigation was politically driven.
Federal Judge Carl Nichols rejected those arguments, saying Trump had never asserted executive privilege in Bannon’s case and that the events at the Capitol needed investigating.
“The events of January 6th were undeniably serious,” Nichols said before pronouncing the sentence. “The January 6 committee thus has every reason to investigate what happened that day.”
He added that Bannon had failed to cooperate with the committee on issues not touched by possible claims of executive privilege.
Bannon has “not produced a single document… and has not provided any testimony on any topic,” he said.
- ‘Assaulted the rule of law’ -
Despite the prison sentence, Bannon, who currently runs a streaming political commentary website, could remain out of jail well into next year while fighting his appeal.
The investigation by a special House committee has depicted Bannon as knowing in advance of the plan by hardline Trump supporters to attack the Capitol to prevent Biden from being confirmed as the next president.
It also showed him advocating for Congress to block Biden – who defeated Trump in the November 2020 election – from becoming head of state.
“The rioters who overran the Capitol on January 6 did not just attack a building – they assaulted the rule of law upon which this country was built and through which it endures,” the Justice Department told the court in its sentencing memo.
“By flouting the Select Committee’s subpoena and its authority, the defendant exacerbated that assault.”
Bannon served in the White House as chief strategist for the first seven months of Trump’s term, leaving reportedly due to conflicts with other top staffers.
In 2020, Bannon was charged with wire fraud and money laundering for taking for personal use millions of dollars contributed by donors towards the construction of a border wall with Mexico.
While others were found guilty in the scheme, Trump issued a blanket pardon for Bannon before leaving office in January 2021, leading to the dismissal of the charges against him.