Steve Bannon, who was a senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, is set to ask a federal appeals court on Thursday to overturn his criminal conviction for defying a subpoena from a congressional panel that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon, convicted last year of two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress, will try to make the case that he did not receive a fair trial because the judge barred him from making arguments central to his defense, including that his lawyer advised him he did not have to comply with the subpoena.
His lawyers and federal prosecutors are set to argue before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Bannon claimed that he did not have to turn over documents or testify before the Democratic-led House of Representatives special committee because Trump had invoked executive privilege, a legal doctrine that keeps some White House communications confidential.
Prosecutors convinced U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols to prohibit that defense, arguing that, legally, it did not matter why Bannon refused to cooperate, only that he made a deliberate decision not to comply with the subpoena.
The pretrial rulings prevented Bannon from “telling the jury the story of why he responded to the subpoena as he did,” Bannon’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.
Bannon was sentenced by Nichols in October 2022 to four months in prison and a $6,500 fine. Nichols allowed him to remain free while he appeals.
Bannon, an influential right-wing media provocateur, served as Trump’s chief White House strategist during 2017 before a falling out between them that was later patched up. He remains popular on the American right.
The committee sought information from Bannon, citing reports that he had held discussions with members of Congress about blocking the certification of the 2020 presidential election results – Democrat Joe Biden defeated the Republican Trump – and predicted that “all hell is going to break loose” on the day of the Capitol riot.
Trump supporters assaulted police, stormed barricades and swarmed the Capitol in a failed bid to prevent congressional certification of Biden’s victory.
Prosecutors said that Trump did not fully invoke executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony and that much of the information lawmakers sought from Bannon, who was no longer in the administration at the time of the attack, was not protected.
The House committee disbanded at the end of 2022 without getting information from Bannon.