The Justice Department argued Monday that former White House strategist Steve Bannon should serve six months in prison and pay a $200,000 fine for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot.
Federal prosecutors put forward the sentencing recommendations after the longtime Donald Trump ally was found guilty in July of two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to sit for a deposition and provide documents to the select committee.
The 68-year-old has “pursued a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt” from the moment he was served the subpoena amid the congressional probe, prosecutors said in Monday’s 24-page sentencing memorandum.
“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 filing said.
“By flouting the Select Committee’s subpoena and its authority, [Bannon] exacerbated that assault.”
Prosecutors argued Bannon, who is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, deserved the hefty sentence “because a person could have shown no greater contempt than the Defendant did in his defiance of the Committee’s subpoena.”
Each count of contempt of Congress is punishable by between 30 days to one year in prison and a fine ranging between $100 to $100,000.
Bannon’s lawyers had initially argued that he didn’t have give testimony or provide documents to the committee because he was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege — even though he was fired from his White House position in August 2017.
He reversed course on the eve of his trial and claimed Trump had waived executive privilege to allow him to testify.
Prosecutors noted in their sentencing memorandum that Bannon’s privilege claims didn’t apply to him and wouldn’t have exempted “his total noncompliance” even if it had.
“Despite the removal of the only purported barrier to his compliance, to this day the Defendant has not produced a single document to the Committee or appeared for testimony,” prosecutors said in the filing.
The DOJ also said they were also seeking the maximum fine for Bannon, which they based on his own “insistence on paying the maximum fine rather than cooperate with the Probation Office’s routine pre-sentencing financial investigation.”
“Throughout the pendency of this case, the Defendant has exploited his notoriety — through courthouse press conferences and his War Room podcast — to display to the public the source of his bad-faith refusal to comply with the committee’s subpoena: a total disregard for government processes and the law,” the filing said.
“The defendant’s statements prove that his contempt was not aimed at protecting executive privilege or the Constitution, rather it was aimed at undermining the committee’s efforts to investigate an historic attack on government.”
Bannon was convicted by the jury after a four-day trial and his attorney vowed to appeal, calling their appellate strategy “bulletproof.”
US District Judge Carl Nichols last month denied Bannon’s request for a new trial after he claimed, in part, that the jury instructions in his case were flawed.
In response to the government’s filing Monday, Bannon’s attorneys asked for a suspended sentence of probation while further appeals are carried out.
“Should a person be jailed when the caselaw which sets forth the elements of the crime is outdated?” lawyer Evan Corcoran asked. “Should a person be jailed for the doing the exact same thing that was done by the highest law enforcement officers in this country, yet they received no punishment? Should a person who has spent a lifetime listening to experts – as a naval officer, investment banker, corporate executive, and Presidential advisor – be jailed for relying on the advice of his lawyers? Should a person be jailed where the prosecutor declined to prosecute others who were similarly situated – with the only difference being that this person uses their voice to express strongly held political views?
“If the answer to any of these questions is no, then a sentence of probation is warranted … we believe that the answer to each of these questions is no,” Corcoran added.
Bannon’s sentencing will take place one year to the day after the House voted to hold him in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with the subpoena.
The former Breitbart executive chairman will learn his fate eight days after the select committee issued Trump a similar subpoena to produce documents and testify.
Additional reporting by Caitlin Doornbos and Samuel Chamberlain