Trump adviser Steve Bannon convicted of contempt of Congress

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Stephen K. Bannon, a right-wing podcaster and longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump, is set to be sentenced Friday morning for defying a subpoena to testify before Congress about the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. .

Bannon faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in prison. If sent to prison, he would be the first person sentenced to serve time behind bars for defying a congressional subpoena in more than half a century under a rarely prosecuted law.

Bannon was sentenced at trial in July for refusing to respond to requests for testimony or documents from the committee investigating the 2021 Capitol riot and preceding events. Both offenses are punishable by up to one year in prison. But Bannon said he plans to appeal his conviction because of rulings by U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols said Bannon could not argue at trial that he relied on his attorney’s advice or believed his cooperation was prohibited by Trump’s claim of executive privilege.

Prosecutors have asked for six months in jail and the maximum fine of $200,000, saying in a court filing that Bannon showed “complete disregard for government process and the law” by ignoring the subpoena while smearing the House investigation and the justice system with “rhetoric that risks inspiring violence. Bannon applied for probation, claiming that a mandatory minimum jail term is illegal because his intent was not criminal or ” voluntary” and that if a sentence is imposed, he should remain free pending the appeal.

The committee had wanted to question Bannon about his role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers into refusing to affirm the results of the 2020 election, culminating in the mob onslaught against the Capitol. The lawmakers in their subpoena noted that Bannon was involved in strategic meetings of Trump supporters the day before the riot; according to the book “Peril,” by Washington Post writers Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Bannon told Trump days earlier that they were “going to bury Biden on January 6.”

At its final public hearing earlier this month, the committee played audio of Bannon saying that Trump would declare victory in the election regardless of the outcome. “It doesn’t mean he’s the winner, it’s just going to say he’s the winner,” Bannon told Chinese associates days before the election. “He’s going to just sit there and say they stole it… That’s our strategy.”

Executive privilege protects the president’s close advisers from subpoenas related to their work in the White House. But Bannon left the administration in mid-2017 and was acting as a private citizen on January 6. Prosecutors at trial and in their sentencing papers provided communications showing that a lawyer for the former president never told Bannon’s legal team that he should decline to appear or that Trump was invoking executive privilege. on any specific document.

At trial, Bannon was only allowed to argue that he thought the deadlines for responding to the committee were just starting points for negotiation.

In their sentencing note, prosecutors said that shortly before trial, one of Bannon’s attorneys, Mr. Evan Corcoran, spoke to a lead committee investigator “as part of deceptive quid pro quo” — offering an offer with conditions that Bannon testify before the committee in exchange for lawmakers helping to end his prosecution. The government said the “stunt” had been rejected.

On October 13, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol released audio of Stephen Bannon outlining Trump’s election strategy. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Another former Trump confidant, trade adviser Peter K. Navarro, is on trial on the same charges; the committee said it wanted him to talk about working with “Bannon and others to… change the outcome of the November 2020 presidential election.” On Bannon’s podcast late last year, Navarro credited the host as “the hero of January 6th,” who had the “strategy to get on Capitol Hill.” As in Bannon’s case, a federal judge found that Trump never invoked executive privilege to prevent Navarro from cooperating with the committee’s investigation.

Bannon also faces a lawsuit in New York state court over allegations he orchestrated a scheme to rob millions of donors who thought they were helping build the wall along the US border. with Mexico. Bannon, who pleaded not guilty, was charged with nearly identical federal charges in 2020 but pardoned by Trump.


Washington

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