Former Trump aide Steve Bannon ordered to begin serving prison sentence by July 1

6 June 2024, 20:44 | Updated: 6 June 2024, 20:45

Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon. Picture: Getty

By Charlotte Frawley

Steve Bannon, a former aide to Donald Trump, has been ordered to report to jail by July 1 to begin serving a four-month sentence.

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Bannon, who served as chief strategist to Trump during his presidency, was convicted for refusing to comply with a subpoena from a Congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, US Capitol riot.

The news comes just days after President Trump was found guilty of 34 charges of falsifying business records, making him the first former or serving US president to be found guilty of a crime.

U.S. Federal Judge Carl Nichols, appointed by Trump in 2019, previously paused Bannon’s four-month sentence, while he appealed his conviction.

On Thursday, Mr Nichols ruled that the original justification for postponing the order was no longer applicable, following a May 10 federal appeal court ruling which unanimously upheld Bannon’s conviction.

Steve Bannon is a former aide to Donald Trump
Steve Bannon is a former aide to Donald Trump. Picture: Getty

“I do not believe that the original basis for my stay of Mr. Bannon’s sentence exists anymore,” Mr Nichols said.

The May 10 decision was written by three D.C. Circuit Appeals judges, who rejected Bannon’s argument that he was not guilty because his non-compliance with the subpoena was in accordance with his attorney’s advice.

The three-judge panel comprised judges Bradley Garcia, Justin Walker and Cornelia Pillard, who were appointed by President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama respectively.

“Bannon did not comply — he knew what the subpoena required but did not appear or provide a single document,” the ruling said.

Bannon was found to have broken a law that makes it a crime to “wilfully” fail to respond to a congressional subpoena.

Ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon speaks to Andrew Marr 16/01 | Watch Again

At the time of the ruling, Bannon’s lawyer David Schoen told CNBC in an email: “There are many fundamentally important constitutional issues at stake in this case.”

“Today’s decision is wrong as a matter of law and it reflects a very dangerous view of the threshold for criminal liability for any defendant in our country and for future political abuses of the congressional hearing process”, said Schoen.

Bannon’s appeal hinges on the interpretation of ‘willfully’.

In the May 10 appeal ruling, the panel said: “Bannon insists that ‘willfully’ should be interpreted to require bad faith and argues that his noncompliance does not qualify because his lawyer advised him not to respond to the subpoena.”

“This court, however, has squarely held that ‘willfully’ in [that law] means only that the defendant deliberately and intentionally refused to comply with a congressional subpoena, and that this exact ‘advice of counsel’ defense is no defense at all.”

Steve Bannon on Thursday
Steve Bannon on Thursday. Picture: Getty

The panel added that “a contrary rule would contravene the text of the contempt statute”, which is a binding precedent.

“Mr. Bannon will now seek redress before the full Court of Appeals, which has the authority to overrule Licavoli”, said Bannon’s lawyer.

The Licavoli case established the binding precedent for the legal interpretation of the word “willfull”.

Bannon intends to continue his appeal to the full bench of the DC Circuit and the Supreme Court, but today’s ruling makes it unlikely he will avoid imprisonment in the meantime.

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