(The Hill) — The Justice Department is calling for one-time White House strategist Steve Bannon to serve six months of jail time and pay a $200,000 fine for defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The recommendation comes ahead of a Friday sentencing hearing for Bannon, who was among the first four people to be subpoenaed by the panel, claiming executive privilege barred him from testifying before the panel despite their interest in actions he took well after his short stint in the White House.
A $200,000 fine is the maximum for the two counts of contempt of Congress – one for refusing to testify, and the other for refusing to produce any of the documents requested in the deposition.
That was a result, DOJ said, of his refusal to participate in a review of his finances that helps determine the extent of a fine a defendant will pay.
“For his sustained, bad-faith contempt of Congress, the defendant should be sentenced to six months imprisonment—the top end of the Sentencing Guidelines’ range—and fined $200,000—based on his insistence on paying the maximum fine rather than cooperate with the Probation Office’s routine pre-sentencing financial investigation,” DOJ wrote.
Bannon was subpoenaed by the panel in September of last year, with the full House voting to hold him in contempt roughly a month later.
That subpoena noted Bannon’s presence in the Trump campaign’s “war room” at the Willard Hotel, including involvement in a discussion with Republican lawmakers about objecting to election results.
They also sought to ask him about a comment from a Jan. 5 episode of his podcast where he said “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
Bannon began his confrontation with the Justice Department with a fiery press conference he live-streamed, vowing to fight the charges.
“I’m telling you right now, this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden. … We’re going on the offense,” Bannon said last November.
But shortly before trial, Bannon sought to cooperate with the committee, claiming Trump had freed him from the constraint of executive privilege that DOJ had determined did not apply to him.
“On the eve of trial, he attempted an about-face, representing to the Committee that former President Donald J. Trump had waived executive privilege and freed the Defendant to cooperate. But this proved a hollow gesture; when he realized that his eleventh-hour stunt would not prevent his trial, the Defendant’s cooperative spirit vanished,” DOJ wrote in Monday’s filing.
Ahead of the trial, a judge rejected most of the arguments Bannon’s defense team could present before the jury, and ultimately his legal team decided to call no witnesses and did not introduce any new evidence at trial.
Bannon’s upcoming sentencing comes over a year after he was first subpoenaed, a reminder of the delayed consequences for those that defy congressional investigators as the panel seeks to compel testimony from Trump.
Bannon is one of just two former White House officials where DOJ accepted a criminal contempt referral from Congress. It chose not to pursue charges against the former chief of staff Mark Meadows or communications guru Dan Scavino but has charged White House aide Peter Navarro.