Steve Bannon appeals to Supreme Court to overturn conviction for contempt of Congress

WASHINGTON – Steve Bannon, a former political and White House aide to former President Donald Trump, asked the Supreme Court on Friday to overturn his conviction for contempt of Congress and keep him out of prison until the case is resolved.

Bannon's move came a day after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to delay his four-month sentence during the appeal. Bannon is scheduled to report to prison on July 1.

The high court asked government prosecutors to respond to Bannon's request by 4 p.m. Wednesday. U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves has opposed letting Bannon remain free because he is unlikely to reverse the verdict or win a new trial.

Another former Trump aide, White House aide Peter Navarro, was jailed in March for his conviction for contempt of Congress. Navarro was also convicted of contempt for defying congressional subpoenas for the Jan. 6 inquiry and the Supreme Court refused to keep him out of prison.

Trent McCotter, a lawyer for Bannon, argued that if he is imprisoned, he will have served his sentence before the Supreme Court decides the case. But the trial judge and one of of three judges on the appeals panel found Bannon's claim that he didn't "willfully" violate the law "raises substantial legal questions," McCotter wrote.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, waves as he attends an event held by the national conservative political movement, ‘Turning Point’ in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., June, 15, 2024. REUTERS/Rebecca cook
Steve Bannon, former advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, waves as he attends an event held by the national conservative political movement, ‘Turning Point’ in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., June, 15, 2024. REUTERS/Rebecca cook

Bannon contends he followed lawyer's advice, didn't 'willfully' defy House

Bannon was convicted for defying a subpoena from the House committee that investigated the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021. He was sentenced to four months in prison and is scheduled to report July 1.

Bannon is appealing by arguing he didn’t “willfully” break the law because he relied on his first lawyer’s advice that he didn’t have to testify or provide documents to the committee.

House lawyers argued that Bannon had thumbed his nose at the committee and ignored the subpoena. But U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, who presided over the trial, voiced concern about how the appeals court has ruled the term “willfully” should be applied.

McCotter argued that the high court has taken an interest in better defining “willfully” by hearing at least 19 appeals on the subject.

“Further, the stakes could not be higher,” McCotter wrote. “Under the D.C. Circuit’s caselaw, future disagreements about subpoena compliance will be met not with negotiation – but with indictments.”

Steve Bannon, former advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, attends an event held by the national conservative political movement, ‘Turning Point’ in Detroit, Michigan, on June, 15, 2024.
Steve Bannon, former advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, attends an event held by the national conservative political movement, ‘Turning Point’ in Detroit, Michigan, on June, 15, 2024.

Bannon also asked Supreme Court to keep him out of prison

Nichols and a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found he is unlikely to win his appeal and refused to keep him out of prison while he appeals.

“It was enough that Bannon knew what the subpoena required yet intentionally refused to appear or to produce any of the requested documents,” Judges Cornelia Pillard and Bradley Garcia ruled for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Justin Walker disagreed, writing that Bannon should remain out of prison while the Supreme Court considers his case because his willfulness in defying the committee “is a close question.”

The two-judge majority wrote that wholesale noncompliance with a subpoena based on the advice of counsel could nullify Congress’s investigations. Pillard was appointed by former President Barack Obama and Garcia by President Joe Biden. Walker, who dissented, was appointed by Trump.

Peter Navarro, who served as then-President Donald Trump's trade adviser, talks to the media before turning himself in at a federal correctional institution to begin his prison sentence for defying a subpoena from a panel that investigated the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Miami, Florida, on March 19, 2024.
Peter Navarro, who served as then-President Donald Trump's trade adviser, talks to the media before turning himself in at a federal correctional institution to begin his prison sentence for defying a subpoena from a panel that investigated the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, in Miami, Florida, on March 19, 2024.

Why did the House panel want to question Bannon?

The committee sought to question Bannon, a political strategist for Trump, in part because he told associates from China on Oct. 31, 2020, Trump would falsely declare victory even if he lost the election and said it would be a “firestorm.”

In a podcast, Bannon said former Vice President Mike Pence “spit the bit,” meaning he was no longer supporting Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which the committee described as amplifying the pressure on Pence.

On Jan. 5, Bannon called Trump at least twice on Jan. 5, 2021, and predicted on a right-wing talk radio show that "all hell is going to break loose tomorrow."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump ally Steve Bannon appeals to Supreme Court to stay out of jail