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D.C. Circuit Upholds Bannon Conviction

Katherine Pompilio
Friday, May 10, 2024, 11:56 AM
The unanimous appeals court panel found that none of Bannon’s challenges to his conviction had “merit.”

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On May 10, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld Steve Bannon’s conviction for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

On July 22, 2022, Bannon—a former Trump White House chief strategist—was found guilty of two charges of contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena. He was later sentenced to four months of incarceration and ordered to pay a fine of $6,500. Bannon appealed the conviction in November 2022. 

According to the ruling, Bannon raised four challenges to his conviction of violating the contempt of Congress statute, which criminalizes “willfully” failing to respond to a congressional subpoena: (1) “the district court erroneously defined the mental state required for a contempt of Congress charge”—here Bannon insisted that the term “willfully” should be interpreted to require bad faith, which he said did not apply because of his advice of counsel defense; (2) “his conduct was affirmatively authorized by government officials”; (3) “the Select Committee’s subpoena was invalid to begin with”’; and (4) “the trial court should not have quashed certain trial subpoenas that sought to develop evidence for his defense.”

In regard to Bannon’s first challenge, the unanimous appeals court panel found that, “As both this court and the Supreme Court have repeatedly explained, a contrary rule would contravene the text of the contempt statute and hamstring Congress’s investigatory authority.” Further, the court ruled it had “no basis to depart from that binding precedent” and added that “because none of Bannon’s other challenges to his convictions have merit, we affirm” the district court’s conviction. 

You can read the decision here or below:

Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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