Steve Bannon discovers the hard way that defying Congress is no joke

Stephen K. Bannon will be sentenced on Friday for criminal contempt of Congress. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Man, it’s almost enough to restore your faith in America.

The happiness I felt when a jury ordered defamer extraordinaire Alex Jones to pay a billion dollars to the Connecticut parents he’d tormented for years had barely ebbed when the Justice Department did something that made my heart sing.

It recommended that Stephen K. Bannon, the white nationalist chaos agent who defied the Jan. 6 select committee’s subpoena, be jailed for six months and pay a $200,000 fine. In July, a jury found President Trump’s former strategist guilty of criminal contempt of Congress.

“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,” concluded prosecutors in their sentencing memo. “By blurting the Select Committee’s subpoena and its authority, the Defendant exacerbated that assault.”

TheJan. 6 committee wanted to ask Bannon about his role in meetings at the Willard Hotel in Washington on the eve of the insurrection, where allies of Trump, including attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, and former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn were working feverishly to derail the certification of Joe Biden’s victory.

I’m sure the members would love to have asked Bannon why he gleefully predicted on his Jan. 5 podcast that “all hell” was “going to break loose tomorrow.”

Bannon claimed he was protected by executive privilege from cooperating with the committee, which is ludicrous, as he was fired from the Trump White House in 2017 and has been a private citizen ever since. In any case, Trump did not try to assert executive privilege on Bannon’s behalf, prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memo, and White House lawyers told the committee they did not believe that Bannon was immune from testifying.

Then, on the eve of his trial, Bannon changed his tune.

He offered to testify, but only if the criminal charges were dropped. Prosecutors called this bad faith move an 11th hour stunt. Alas for Bannon, the court saw through his ruse. The trial proceeded, and ended with conviction.

Days later, the obstreperous defendant proclaimed on his podcast that he was going to “kill this administration in the crib” and told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and the Justice Department they could “suck on it.”

Sure, I was disappointed that prosecutors have only recommended that Bannon spend six months behind bars, but, sadly, they say that is the upper end of the sentencing guidelines.

The reason they are asking the judge to impose a $200,000 fine is because Bannon basically dared them to. He refused to provide any personal financial information to the government, claiming he could pay the maximum. As the prosecutors put it: “So be it.”

Happily, Bannon’s legal troubles are far from over.

Last month, New York prosecutors announced that a grand jury had indicted Bannon on charges of money laundering, conspiracy and fraud in connection with his outlandish quest to privately underwrite the construction of the wall at the US-Mexico border.

According to that indictment, Bannon siphoned at least a million dollars from the $25 million-plus raised for his We Build the Wall project after duping donors with the promise that he and his partners would not take a penny of compensation for the work. Which, of course, was a lie.

Two of Bannon’s We Build the Wall partners, Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, have already pleaded guilty in federal court for their part in the fraud, apologized and have been sentenced to prison. A third partner’s trial ended in a hung jury.

But, you might be wondering, didn’t Trump already pardon Bannon for these crimes on his way out the White House door?

Indeed, he did. On Trump’s last day in office, months before Bannon’s federal trial was scheduled to start, he granted clemency to Bannon (though not to his partners in crime), prompting Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the lead prosecutor in Trump’s first impeachment trial to tweet: “Steve Bannon is getting a pardon from Trump after defrauding Trump’s own supporters into paying for a wall that Trump promised Mexico would pay for. And if all that sounds crazy, that’s because it is. Thank God we have only 12 more hours of this den of thieves.”

Thankfully, a federal pardon is no barrier to state charges.

Last month, Bannon pleaded not guilty in a New York courtroom. If convicted of the border wall scam charges, he will face five to 15 years in prison. His trial is scheduled for November 2023.

“They will never shut me up,” said a red-faced Bannon, feigning martyrdom as he was led in handcuffs down a courtroom hallway to his arraignment.

We should only be so lucky.


This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Leave a Comment