December 7, 2022 3:12 am

Steve Bannon: Former Trump strategist facing jail time in contempt case

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon is facing up to six months in jail for refusing a summons to testify before Congress about the January 6 US Capitol riot.

Bannon, 68, was found guilty in July of two counts of contempt for defying a congressional committee’s legal summons.

Prosecutors say his refusal to cooperate has “exacerbated the assault on the Capitol”.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Earlier this week, the Justice Department called on Bannon to receive six months in prison as well as a $200,000 (£176,916) fine – on the high end of what’s permitted under sentencing guidelines for the two counts.

Each count is punishable by between 30 days to one year in prison and a fine ranging between $100 to $100,000.

A key figure in Donald Trump’s successful 2016 electoral bid, Bannon went on to become the White House’s chief strategist before being abruptly ousted in the wake of a violent far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Even after leaving the White House, Bannon remained in close contact with Mr Trump and his key political allies.

In the wake of the January 6 riot in 2021, Bannon did not comply with a summons – known as a subpoena – seeking testimony and records about efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, as well as about the events that lead up to the storming of Congress.

In a strongly worded memorandum filed to the court earlier this week, prosecutors said that Bannon’s failure to cooperate “exacerbated the assault on the Capitol” .

“To this day, he continues to unlawfully withhold documents and testimony that stand to help the committee’s authorised investigation to get to the bottom of what led to January 6 and ascertain what steps must be taken to ensure that it never happens again,” the filing added. “That cannot be tolerated”.

Lawyers for Bannon argued that the case was driven by political retribution and that, rather than ignoring the subpoenas, he was negotiating them. They added that he believed the deadlines in the summons were flexible.

On Monday, his lawyers filed a sentencing memo saying their client should be sentenced to probation only, and if the judge insists on jail, then Bannon should be permitted to serve his sentence at home.

His lawyers argued that contempt of Congress charges are rare and were not filed in the case of two other Trump administration figures – Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and his deputy, Dan Scavino Jr – who had also ignored committee subpoenas.

Another official, former Trump White House trade advisor Peter Navarro, was also charged with contempt, however, and is scheduled to go on trial in November. The January 6 congressional committee also voted to issue a subpoena to Mr Trump last week and it remains unclear whether he would comply.

While a silent figure during court proceedings, outside of court Bannon continued to be a vocal critic of the committee probing the 6 January riot. In late July, for example, he challenged committee chairman Bennie Thompson to have “the courage to come to this courthouse” and “say exactly why this is a crime”.

Prosecutors argued that his comments displayed “overall disdain and disrespect for the rule of law”.

Bannon is also facing separate fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges in New York after being accused of cheating donors to a fundraiser aimed at helping Mr Trump build a wall at the US-Mexico border.

He previously faced federal charges over the same allegations before being pardoned by Mr Trump.

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