By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Steve Bannon, a prominent figure on the American right who served as a senior strategist for former President Donald Trump, is set to be sentenced on Friday after being convicted in July on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from lawmakers investigating last year’s U.S. Capitol attack.
The sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT). Prosecutors on Monday asked the judge to sentence Bannon to six months in prison, while Bannon’s attorneys had sought probation. Each of the two counts is punishable by 30 days to one year in prison and a fine ranging between $100 to $100,000.
Prosecutors also had recommended that Bannon be ordered to pay the maximum possible fine of $200,000 after they said he refused to cooperate with a routine pre-sentencing financial investigation.
A jury of eight men and four women convicted Bannon after just three hours of deliberations for refusing to testify or provide documents subpoenaed by the House of Representatives select committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack and efforts by Trump’s allies to overturn his 2020 election loss.
Bannon, 68, was a key adviser to the Republican Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, then served as his chief White House strategist during 2017 before a falling out between them that was later patched up. Bannon helped articulate the “America First” right-wing populism and stout opposition to immigration that helped define Trump’s presidency. Bannon has played an instrumental role in right-wing media and has promoted right-wing causes and candidates in the United States and abroad.
A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol and attacked police with batons, sledgehammers, flag poles, Taser devices, chemical irritants, metal pipes, rocks, metal guard rails and other weapons in a failed effort to block congressional certification of his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
According to the committee, Bannon spoke with Trump at least twice on the day before the attack, attended a planning meeting at a Washington hotel and said on his right-wing podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
In his trial, prosecutors called only two witnesses while Bannon’s defense team called none. Bannon opted not to testify. Bannon’s lawyers have said they will appeal his conviction.
Bannon’s defense was hamstrung by rulings by Nichols including one that barred him from asserting that he relied on claims of executive privilege, a legal doctrine shielding some White House communications, as a basis to refuse to testify. Bannon was also precluded from arguing that he relied on legal advice from his attorney.
The committee’s leaders have called Bannon’s conviction a victory for the rule of law. Bannon had sought to portray the criminal charges as politically motivated, lashing out at Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland, while saying, “They took on the wrong guy his time.”
The Democratic-led committee has sought testimony from dozens of people in Trump’s orbit. In addition to Bannon, prosecutors have charged former Trump White House adviser Peter Navarro with contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the same committee, with a Nov. 17 trial date set. Navarro has pleaded not guilty.
Friday’s sentencing does not end Bannon’s legal troubles. He was indicted in New York state in September on charges of money laundering and conspiracy, with prosecutors accusing him of deceiving donors giving money to help build Trump’s promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Bannon, who pleaded not guilty, could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted on those charges. Trump pardoned Bannon last year on similar federal charges.
Trump and numerous associates like Bannon have been beset with legal issues.
Trump is facing a federal criminal investigation over the removal of sensitive government records from the White House. Trump’s real estate company is set to go on trial in Manhattan on Monday on tax fraud charges. Trump and three of his adult children also face a civil fraud lawsuit by New York state’s attorney general accusing them of overstating asset values and Trump’s net worth to get favorable bank loans and insurance coverage.
Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and right-wing lawyers Sidney Powell, John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark, all active in efforts to undo Trump’s 2020 election loss, also are embroiled in legal matters arising from those efforts.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)