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DOJ wants Steve Bannon locked up for 6 months and fined $200,000
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DOJ wants Steve Bannon locked up for 6 months and fined $200,000

Steve Bannon, former Trump adviser and host of the "War Room" podcast, was found guilty of two charges of contempt of Congress by a federal jury on July 22. He reportedly refused to comply with a subpoena issued by the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the 2021 Capitol protests. On Monday, the Department of Justice recommended that Bannon be sentenced to prison for six months and hit with a $200,000 fine.

The DOJ's sentencing memorandum, filed on October 17, accused Bannon of pursuing "a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt," claiming he "flouted the [Jan. 6] Committee's authority and ignored the subpoena's demands."

"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," read the recommendation.

The DOJ also accused Bannon of employing "hyperbolic and sometimes violent rhetoric to disparage the Committee's investigation, personally attack the Committee's members, and ridicule the criminal justice system," characterizing the 68-year-old's criticisms of the committee as "attacks."

Among Bannon's comments cited as so-called attacks was the statement: "This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden. Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off of Marine One."

It not clear whether it too qualifies as an "attack," but Bannon's lawyer said at the time: "There is nothing about this case that reflects the pursuit of the equal justice under the law. This thing was a scam from the beginning. The committee that was convened here was convened exclusively of people who have made pre-judgements and announced them publicly. The chair of the committee sued President Trump personally."

The memorandum listed a number of instances of "menacing rhetoric aimed at the Committee's investigation and its membership," including Bannon:

  • urging listeners on a July 12 episode of his podcast to pray for "our enemies" because "we're going medieval on these people";
  • calling Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the Jan 6. committee chair, "gutless," insinuating he was not "man enough" to appear in court;
  • referring to Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) as "Fang Fang Swalwell" — an allusion to Swalwell's affair with alleged Chinese communist spy Christine Fang; and
  • deeming the committee's work a "show trial," likening it to "the Moscow show trial of the 1930s."

"By flouting the Select Committee's subpoena and its authority, the Defendant exacerbated the assault," noted U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves, referencing the protest at the Capitol on January 6.

After hearing his guilty verdict in July, Bannon appeared on "Tucker Carlson Tonight," where he said, "If I go to jail, I go to jail. I will never back off. ... I support Trump and the Constitution, and I'm not backing off one inch."

He noted there was also a long appeals process ahead and suggested both that "the law is with us" and that his case might be "adjudicated ... higher than the appellate courts."

Bannon also warned Carlson's audience that "they're coming for everybody. ... This is an ideological war and we cannot lose. The fate of the country is over the next couple years."

Bannon will be sentenced on October 21.

Two-tier justice?

Whereas Bannon may see the inside of a jail cell for defying a subpoena, other high-profile political figures on the left have avoided consequence in the face of far more substantial accusations.

In September 2016, Bryan Pagliano, a State Department IT specialist who was paid off the books to set up former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private server, ignored a subpoena to appear before a House committee hearing concerning the FBI's investigation into Clinton's improper storage of classified material.

Despite every Democrat member on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform voting in opposition, Pagliano was held in contempt for refusing to testify. The contempt charges went nowhere.

When subpoenaed for additional documents pertinent to a congressional investigation of the Benghazi terrorist attacks, Clinton notified the committee she had "wipe[d] her server clean." She similarly did not see prison time for defying a subpoena.

Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner was held in contempt of Congress after she refused to testify at congressional panel hearings related to the Obama administration's political weaponization of the IRS against conservative groups. Again, all Democrats present voted in opposition.

Then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated the decision whether to arrest Lerner was up to then-Attorney General Eric Holder. The DOJ ultimately did not charge Lerner with criminal contempt and she did not, as a consequence, go to jail.

Holder had himself been previously held in contempt of Congress. He was found to have misled Congress on its investigation of the Obama administration's arming of terroristic Mexican cartels via an operation called "Fast and Furious." Holder did not go to jail.

The Obama White House "all but refused" to turn over documents subpoenaed by congressional Republicans concerning the bankrupt solar firm Solyndra, which received a half-billion-dollar federal loan. There was little consequence.

Besides the inconsistency in outcomes for persons held in contempt of Congress, ostensibly along partisan lines, others have noted a broader imbalance in the tack taken by the DOJ.

Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of Act for America, noted that the DOJ wanted Bannon in jail but wasn't so keen to incarcerate violent BLM rioters.

Mark Hemingway of RealClearInvestigations suggested that "justifiable or not ... sending Bannon in jail for refusing to testify to J6 committee seems like something that's going to further cement the growing idea on the right that DOJ is an instrument of political persecution."

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) tweeted that the DOJ "has become politicized and is no longer serving justice in good faith."

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Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon

Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.
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