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Trump ally Steve Bannon files emergency motion seeking to stay out of prison

PoliticsTrump ally Steve Bannon files emergency motion seeking to stay out of prison

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Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Trump, filed an emergency motion on Tuesday seeking to keep him out of prison as he pursues an appeal – possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court – on his conviction for defying a Jan. 6 House committee subpoena. 

The motion filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia requests a ruling by June 18 – before Bannon’s surrender date of July 1 – to allow sufficient time to seek further relief from the Supreme Court if necessary. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols in Washington agreed to the Justice Department’s request to require that Bannon report to prison on July 1 after a federal appeals court panel in May upheld his contempt of Congress conviction.

“There is also no denying the political realities here. Mr. Bannon is a high-profile political commentator and campaign strategist. He was prosecuted by an administration whose policies are a frequent target of Mr. Bannon’s public statements,” the motion says. “The government seeks to imprison Mr. Bannon for the four-month period leading up to the November election, when millions of Americans look to him for information on important campaign issues. This would also effectively bar Mr. Bannon from serving as a meaningful advisor in the ongoing national campaign.”

“This is a landmark case. The prosecution pursued a novel and aggressive theory of liability, and the case garnered international attention,” Bannon’s lawyer, R. Trent McCotter, wrote. “If the panel decision stands, there will be far-reaching consequences, including separation-of-powers concerns. Before the prosecution of Mr. Bannon, it had been 50 years since the government convinced a jury to convict someone for not adequately responding to a congressional subpoena—and there has certainly been no shortage of disputes over congressional subpoenas during that time.”

JUDGE ORDERS STEVE BANNON TO REPORT TO PRISON

Bannon outside DC courthouse

Steve Bannon, former adviser to former President Trump, center, and attorney Matthew Evan Corcoran, left, depart the courthouse on June 6, 2024 in Washington, D.C. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Bannon was convicted nearly two years ago of two counts of contempt of Congress: one for refusing to sit for a deposition with the Jan. 6 House Committee and the other for refusing to provide documents related to his involvement in Trump’s efforts to have the 2020 presidential election results showing a victory for President Biden overturned. 

Nichols, nominated by Trump to the bench in 2018, had initially allowed Bannon to remain free while he fought his conviction because the judge believed the case raised substantial legal questions. However, during a hearing in Washington’s federal court, Nichols said the calculus changed after a three-judge District of Columbia appeals court panel said all of Bannon’s challenges lack merit.

The motion Tuesday comes after Trump was convicted on 34 felony charges in his New York City hush money trial and faces a sentencing hearing next month just four days before the Republican National Convention, where the GOP will likely declare him their official 2024 presidential nominee.

Bannon sits in courtroom

Steve Bannon, former advisor to former President Trump, appears in Manhattan Supreme Court to set his trial date on May 25, 2023 in New York City. (Curtis Means-Pool/Getty Images)

Bannon “intends to vigorously pursue his remaining appeals in this case and has retained experienced Supreme Court counsel,” his lawyers wrote Tuesday, asking the court to allow him to remain on release given there is “no dispute that Mr. Bannon ‘is not likely to flee or pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released’ —indeed, he has been out on release for years now without incident, and his ‘crime’ was non-violent.”

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“Mr. Bannon faced what the Court has described as a novel scenario: Congress was pursuing documents and testimony from a former executive branch official, yet counsel for the former President himself required Mr. Bannon to protect executive privilege in responding to the subpoena,” the motion says. “Mr. Bannon followed the advice of his counsel and requested that the Committee resolve the privilege issues with the holder of that privilege, or have the matter resolved in a civil suit.” 

Bannon’s lawyer at trial argued that the former adviser did not ignore the subpoena, but was still engaged in good-faith negotiations with the congressional committee when he was charged.

The defense has said Bannon had been acting on the advice of his attorney at the time, who told him that the subpoena was invalid because the committee would not allow a Trump lawyer in the room and that Bannon could not determine what documents or testimony he could provide because Trump asserted executive privilege.

Bannon walks out of courtroom

Steve Bannon, former adviser to former President Trump, leaves after a court appearance at New York State Supreme Court on May 25, 2023 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Defense lawyer David Schoen told the judge it would be unfair to send Bannon to prison now because he would complete his entire sentence before he exhausted his appeals. Schoen said the case raises “serious constitutional issues” that need to be examined by the Supreme Court.

“In this country, we don’t send anyone to prison if they believe that they were doing something that complied with the law,” he told reporters.

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A second Trump aide, trade adviser Peter Navarro, was also convicted of contempt of Congress. He reported to prison in March to serve his four-month sentence.

Bannon is also facing criminal charges in New York state court alleging he duped donors who gave money to build a wall along the U.S. southern border. Bannon has pleaded not guilty to money laundering, conspiracy, fraud and other charges, and that trial has been postponed until at least the end of September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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