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Bannon receives 4-month sentence for flouting House Jan. 6 panel

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon has been sentenced to four months in prison for contempt of Congress. A jury in Washington, D.C., convicted him of two misdemeanor charges earlier this year. NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson is with us for details of today's court proceedings. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: OK, so before we get to more on Bannon's sentencing, this is all about Bannon not cooperating with the January 6 committee, right? What did Congress want from him?

JOHNSON: Congress wanted documents and testimony from Bannon. A day before the assault on the Capitol, Steve Bannon said all hell is going to break loose tomorrow. And Congress wanted to know why he said that. Congress also pointed out that Bannon was involved in planning for the political rally on the Ellipse on January 6 and some of the strategy for former President Trump, and lawmakers on the January 6 panel also suspected Bannon knew a lot more about the likelihood of violence that day on Capitol Hill.

FADEL: OK. So they suspect he knew a lot more. He did not cooperate, and now he got four months in prison. What else did the judge decide in the hearing today?

JOHNSON: Four months in prison - also a fine of $6,500. Judge Carl Nichols said he will allow Bannon to remain free, pending an appeal. And the heart of that appeal will be whether it was enough for the Justice Department to prove Bannon simply blew off this demand from Congress or whether prosecutors also needed to show Bannon had a guilty mind or bad intent here. Bannon, of course, had asked for no prison time at all. That was a nonstarter with this judge. He said the statutes involved in this case required a minimum of one month in prison, and Bannon, of course, got four.

FADEL: Now, Carrie, what was the atmosphere like at the courthouse?

JOHNSON: You know, Steve Bannon, who does a lot of talking, didn't say anything to the judge. He let his lawyer speak for him, and talk they did. Attorney David Schoen - you may remember from President Donald Trump's second impeachment - launched into a string of arguments. Schoen said his client, Bannon, had no remorse and said Bannon's contempt for Congress could have been even worse. Then he went on to use some coarse language, and then the defense attorney out of nowhere launched a rhetorical attack at a member of former President Trump's legal team and extensively quoted from the Federalist Papers, all while the judge sat there scratching his chin. Prosecutor J.P. Cooney for the Justice Department kept things rather short. He said Bannon chose hiding behind fabricated claims of executive privilege to thumb his nose at Congress. The prosecutor said Bannon is not above the law. He wanted this court to send a message that no one else is above the law either.

FADEL: So no one else is above the law - that's the message. What are the wider implications for other cases, then?

JOHNSON: There are some. Former Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro is facing trial next month here in D.C. for contempt of Congress. He's also accused of blowing off demands from the House January 6 committee. And prosecutors have decided not to charge Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, with contempt because Meadows did actually share some materials with Congress, unlike Steve Bannon. But Trump himself is staring down a subpoena from the January 6 panel. And we're going to have to see what happens next with that as well in the weeks ahead, before the Congress ends.

FADEL: NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson discussing the sentencing of Steve Bannon. He got four months in prison. Thank you, Carrie.

JOHNSON: Happy to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.