Appeals court won’t delay July 1 start of Steve Bannon’s prison sentence

A federal appeals court Thursday night rejected Steve Bannon’s bid to delay the July 1 start of his criminal contempt-of-Congress prison sentence.

Following the ruling from the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals, it is likely the former adviser to former President Donald Trump will seek the intervention of the Supreme Court.

The panel voted 2-1, with Judge Cornelia Pillard, a Barack Obama nominee, and Judge Bradley Garcia, a Joe Biden nominee, in the majority. The majority opinion, however, was unsigned.

Judge Justin Walker, a Trump appointee, dissented from the panel’s Thursday night decision, writing that the precedent Bannon is contesting is a “close” question and that Bannon should be allowed to stay out of prison while he appeals it to the Supreme Court.

CNN has reached out to Bannon for comment.

A jury found Bannon guilty of contempt nearly two years ago for not complying with a House January 6 Committee subpoena for his testimony, but his trial judge initially paused his four-month prison sentence for his appeal to play out.

Earlier this month, however, US District Judge Carl Nichols lifted that hold on Bannon’s sentence at the request of the Justice Department, which pointed to a recent decision by the DC Circuit that upheld his conviction.

In recent days, Bannon has amped his rhetoric against the Justice Department, telling a conservative gathering in Detroit this month that they would “purge” the department and “take apart” the FBI if Trump won the election.

Absent a Supreme Court intervention, Bannon is slated to serve his sentence at a low-security prison camp in Danbury, Connecticut, CNN previously reported. Because he is facing New York state criminal charges for his involvement in an the allegedly fraudulent “Build the Wall” fundraising scheme, he will not be sent to the minimal-security prison camps known as a “Club Fed.”

Bannon’s attorneys had argued that he should be allowed to stay out of prison as he continued to appeal the conviction, pointing to his ability to have the full DC Circuit review the case and then, if need be, a potential Supreme Court appeal.

At a June 6 hearing, Nichols said that he had initially let Bannon delay his sentence because he believed there was a “substantial” legal question about a DC Circuit precedent that limited the defenses Bannon could put forward at his trial. But, because of the way that the DC Circuit panel went on to embrace that precedent when it upheld Bannon’s conviction, Nichols said did not believe that “the original basis for my stay exists any longer.”

Nichols, a Trump appointee, gave Bannon a short window to obtain the emergency intervention of a higher court.

Bannon, who hosts a podcast that’s popular among conservatives, told the appeals court in filings last week that the Biden administration was trying to silence his criticisms of its policies ahead of the election.

“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,” his attorneys said in the filings.

His lawyers also claimed that being forced to serve his prison sentence now would “also effectively bar Mr. Bannon from serving as a meaningful advisor in the ongoing national campaign.”

Prosecutors countered that “Bannon’s role in political discourse is simply not a relevant factor” under the federal statute dictating when a defendant’s appeal can delay his sentence.

“Bannon also cannot reconcile his claim for special treatment with the bedrock principle of equal justice under the law,” prosecutors told the appeals court in a filing.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Sara Murray and Dan Berman contributed to this report.

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