Steve Bannon, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump, will be sentenced on Friday on charges of criminal contempt of Congress after he refused a subpoena from the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 uprising.
Sentencing will take place in federal court in Washington, DC. Judge Carl Nichols – a Trump appointee – will hand down the sentence in proceedings that begin at 9 a.m. ET.
The landmark sentence comes in a January 6 Justice Department response, which prosecutors say, ignoring the commission’s subpoena, “aggravated” Bannon’s attack on the rule of law in the US Capitol. It could also strengthen lawmakers’ ability to secure the cooperation of witnesses who are resistant to participating in congressional investigations.
Bannon was convicted this summer – by a jury that deliberated for less than three hours – of two counts of contempt: one for refusing to testify in the investigation and the other for not returning documents requested by the commission. The crime carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison, although Friday’s sentence will be shorter.
Bannon is also appealing his case, as his lawyers continue to say that concerns about executive privilege prevented him from cooperating with the House investigation. Prosecutors countered that argument in court filings, saying Trump’s lawyer was not on board with intensifying the House investigation into Bannon.
Here’s what to know about Bannon’s ruling:
Nichols will not decide what sentence Bannon should face; the judge will decide whether that sentence will wait until the Trump ally appeals his conviction.
Bannon has asked the judge to delay his sentence until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviews his case, a process that could take several months. Nichols may move to grant that request.
Contempt of office in Congress is nothing more than a crime. And throughout the proceedings, Nichols has expressed sympathy with Bannon’s legal arguments that the government against him was wrong. The judge said, however, that he was bound by decades of D.C. Circuit precedent that severely limited what kind of evidence Bannon could present in his defense.
“This case presents a unique opportunity to update the law,” Bannon said in his request to stay the sentence while the case is appealed.
In a filing on Thursday, the Justice Department made clear it opposes the former Trump adviser’s request, saying the court “must require the defendant to report to serve his sentence.”
The Justice Department told the judge that Bannon should serve six months in prison for his crimes, and prosecutors emphasized “bad faith” in how Bannon handled the subpoena and the indictment against him.
That sentence would be at the upper end of the 1-6 month sentencing range provided by guidelines put forward by the US Probation Office.
The DOJ’s sentencing memorandum attacked Bannon’s arguments that he was merely listening to his lawyers’ advice to avoid compliance, as prosecutors pointed to heated statements he had made publicly about the case.
“The defendant has expressed no remorse for his behavior and has attacked others at every turn. The court should reject the defendant’s request to impute an acceptance of responsibility that he has never shown,” the prosecutors wrote.
Bannon is asking the judge to sentence him to probation only. In this way, the files made with the court did not emphasize his remorse, but argued how unfair it would be to be imprisoned. Bannon made suggestions that the prosecution had partisan motivations, that the case law that shaped his trial was “outdated” and that he only listened to the advice of his lawyers to avoid serving the subpoenas.
“Should a person be imprisoned when prosecutors have refused to prosecute others in a similar situation, the only difference being that this person is using his voice to express strong political views?” he wrote
Bannon also pleaded with the judge to allow him to serve his sentence under house arrest.
In Thursday’s filing, prosecutors called it “unlawful” Bannon’s recommendation to impose only probation, citing the one-month minimum required by the contempt of Congress statute.
The DOJ filing said the only exceptions that allow courts to go below legal minimums are for certain drug cases and for defendants who provide substantial assistance to law enforcement.
“The defendant should be held accountable like any other citizen found guilty of a federal crime; as required by law, the Court should impose a term of imprisonment, not probation,” the department said.
Bannon’s offense also carries a maximum fine of $200,000 – $100,000. According to DOJ documents, Bannon has already agreed to pay that maximum penalty, refusing to share details about his finances with the probation office.
“Rather than release his financial records, a requirement that all other defendants found guilty of a crime must comply with, the defendant informed Probation that he preferred to pay the maximum fine. So be it,” the prosecutor wrote. “This court should require the defendant to when he refused to answer standard questions about his financial status to comply with the proposed settlement.”