Appeals court upholds Steve Bannon’s contempt-of-Congress conviction for defying Jan. 6 subpoena

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld the contempt-of-Congress conviction of Steve Bannon, the ex-adviser to former President Donald Trump who was found guilty after failing to comply with a subpoena from the House January 6 committee.

Bannon’s conviction — and now, the DC Circuit’s affirmation of that conviction — is a boost to Congress’ leverage in its efforts going forward to obtain cooperation in its investigations.

The US DC Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected several challenges Bannon made to the case, including his claim that the trial court excluded evidence he should have been allowed to put before the jury in his defense.

Bannon was sentenced to four months in federal prison, and that sentence was also upheld Friday by the appeals court. The ruling could pave the way for Bannon to eventually report to prison, though the timing is unclear.

The judge who presided over Bannon’s trial previously agreed to let him hold off from serving his sentence while his appeal played out. In its ruling Friday, the three-judge appeals panel gave Bannon time to appeal its ruling to the full DC-based appeals court before it formally notifies the trial judge that the conviction was upheld.

Bannon could also turn directly to the Supreme Court for additional appeals, possibly further delaying when he needs to start serving his prison term.

Bannon’s attorneys did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.

In the DC Circuit’s new ruling, Judge Bradley Garcia, an appointee of President Joe Biden, backed the trial judge’s exclusion of an advice-of-counsel defense, as Bannon had claimed he had rebuffed the subpoena because of supposed executive privilege concerns expressed to him by his lawyer.

“This exact ‘advice of counsel’ defense is no defense at all,” Garcia wrote, noting that the contempt law only required proof that Bannon “deliberately and intentionally” did not respond to the subpoena.

His opinion was joined by Judge Cornelia Pillard, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, and Trump-appointed Judge Justin Walker.

The appeals court noted that “the communications from former President Trump’s counsel” that Bannon had tried to rely on to defend his conduct did not purport “to authorize Bannon’s refusal to produce any documents or appear for his deposition.”

The DC Circuit also rejected Bannon’s argument that the House select committee that investigated the January 6 insurrection was improperly formed.

“These objections suffer from a common defect,” the judges wrote. “Bannon did not raise them before the Select Committee and therefore forfeited them.”

Bannon is one of two former members of Trump’s inner circle who faced prosecution for not participating in the House January 6 probe. The second, former Trump White House aide Peter Navarro, is currently serving a four-month prison sentence for his 2023 conviction.

When the now-defunct House panel sought documents and testimony from Bannon in 2021, it pointed to alleged communications between Bannon and Trump in the days leading up to the January 6 Capitol attack, as well as comments Bannon made on his podcast the day before the riot that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”

Bannon for some time served in Trump’s White House, but by the time of Trump’s crusade to overturn his 2020 electoral loss, Bannon had long left the federal government.

This story has been updated with additional details and background information.

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