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Supreme Court denies Bannon’s last bid to delay prison for Jan. 6 contempt

The Supreme Court on Friday turned aside Stephen K. Bannon’s last bid to delay his July 1 deadline to report to prison, leaving the Donald Trump political strategist and right-wing podcaster facing a court order to turn himself in to a low-security federal prison while he appeals his contempt of Congress conviction.

The high court’s rejection came in a one-sentence order: “The application for release pending appeal presented to The Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is denied.” The court did not state its reasons, but lower courts said Bannon failed to raise substantial legal questions over his two-count conviction for refusing to provide documents or testimony to a House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Bannon had asked the justices for an emergency stay on June 21, after his D.C.-based trial judge and the judges who heard the appeal of his conviction rejected similar requests. Both courts said Bannon had little chance of success in arguing that he was relying on advice from an attorney and did not “willfully” break the law by ignoring the congressional subpoena.

David I. Schoen, an attorney who represented Bannon through his trial and sentencing, said Friday: “I fully believe the conviction will be reversed and it is a shame to see it mishandled like this. He never should be going to jail for even a day.”

Bannon’s attorneys have argued that as “a top adviser to the President Trump campaign,” he should have the “ability to participate in the campaign and comment on important matters of policy” as the 2024 election nears.

Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote that Bannon did not qualify for an “extraordinary” exception from the law, arguing to the Supreme Court, “He cannot make the demanding showing necessary to override the normal requirement that a convicted defendant begin serving his sentence.”

The court’s rebuff of Bannon came after it declined a similar stay-out-of-jail request from Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro, 74. He is scheduled to complete a four-month prison sentence on July 17, after becoming the first person incarcerated for contempt of Congress since the Cold War era. Navarro was convicted in September of the same charges as Bannon, after writing in a memoir that he and Bannon had a plan to keep Joe Biden from taking office.

Both men argued that they could not testify to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack because they were covered by executive privilege, the constitutional principle under the separation-of-powers that shields the communications of presidents’ top aides from Congress.

But judges ruled that unlike two other top Trump aides whom the Justice Department declined to charge for failing to appear before the committee — former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and communications chief Dan Scavino — neither Bannon nor Navarro received letters from a lawyer for the former president directing them not to respond to subpoenas from the committee, specifically citing the privilege.

To the contrary, although Trump suggested before Bannon’s trial that the latter was covered by executive privilege, an attorney for Trump at the time told Bannon’s lawyers the opposite.

The Trump White House attorney wrote, “we don’t believe there is … immunity from testimony for your client.”

Bannon has maintained a high political profile, advising Trump and others in the 2024 campaign and speaking on his “War Room” podcast. The former chief strategist of Trump’s 2016 campaign served a year in the White House, and since the Capitol riot has helped guide the Trump movement’s comeback.

He faces other legal challenges. A New York state judge last summer ordered him to pay nearly $500,000 in legal fees to lawyers representing him in connection with a number of matters, including a criminal case alleging he defrauded donors contributing to a private effort to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump had pardoned Bannon in connection with those allegations.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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