Ex-Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon jailed for four months for contempt of Congress

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Donald Trump’s former strategist has been jailed for four months for refusing to appear before a Senate committe to be questioned about the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2020. And the 68-year-old responded by launched in a fiery rant in which he took aim at the Joe Biden administration in advance of the looming midterm elections.

US District Judge Carl Nichols during a sentencing hearing also ordered Bannon to pay a fine of $6,500. Bannon was convicted by a jury in July on two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to provide documents or testimony.

Each of the two counts was punishable by a minimum of one month and a maximum of one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

Prosecutors on Monday had asked the judge to sentence Bannon to six months in prison, while Bannon’s attorneys had sought probation.

Prosecutor JP Cooney said at Friday’s hearing that Bannon chose to “thumb his nose at Congress.”

He “is not above the law, and that’s what makes this case important,” Mr Cooney said.

As he arrived at the courthouse, protesters shouted “fascist” and “traitor”. 

He told them: “I want to thank all you guys for coming. Remember this illegitimate regime, their judgment day is on November 8 when the Biden administration ends.”

The midterm elections take place on that date, although it was not immediately clear whether Bannon was talking about then or the 2024 US Presidential election.

Bannon, 68, was convicted by a jury of eight men and four women after just three hours of deliberations in what was a major victory for the Democrat-led panel.

He is an influential figure on the American right and a staunch Trump ally, following his conviction he said: “We may have lost the battle here today, but we are not going to lose the war.”

“I stand with Trump and the Constitution [of the United States] and I will never back off that,” he added.

Prosecutors on Monday had asked that Bannon be given a six month sentence for each of the charges as well as the maximum $200,000 fine. Bannon’s lawyers argued for probation.

Each charge carries a minimum 30-day jail sentence with a maximum of one year as well as a fine ranging from $100 to $100,000.

Mr Bannon will not serve any prison time until his appeal has played out, Judge Nichols later confirmed.

On January 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol building armed with tasers, batons sledgehammers, chemical irritants and other weapons. The group clashed with police and ended up breaking into the building.

The House committee investigating the incident believes Steve Bannon spoke to Donald Trump twice the day before the attack and he reportedly said on his podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow”.

Bannon’s defence for the contempt of Congress charges was hamstrung by presiding US District Judge Carl Nichols when he ruled that Bannon could not rely on executive privilege as a defence for not testifying to the committee.

Executive privilege allows some White House correspondence to remain shielded. Bannon was also precluded from arguing that he relied on legal advice from his attorney as a defence.

READ MORE: Mike Pence snubs Trump and teases 2024 White House run

Democrats on the committee have touted Bannon’s conviction as a victory for the rule of law. It has sought testimony from many with connections to former President Donald Trump.

Prosecutors have also charged former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro for defying a subpoena from the committee. He has pleaded not guilty with his trial date set for November 17.

The sentence does not end Steve Bannon’s legal troubles. He has been indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy in New York, with prosecutors accusing him of deceiving donors who were giving money to help build Trump’s promised US-Mexico border wall.

He faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted of those charges. Last year, Trump pardoned him on similar federal charges.

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