The tale of two Trump advisors — one in jail, one on the way

On October 31, 2020, former Trump White House advisor Steve Bannon—who had left Trump’s administration in 2017—explained to a group of people that, knowing that votes for Biden would accumulate throughout the evening as mail-in ballots were counted, Trump planned simply to declare victory on election night, seizing the presidency and claiming that any results to the contrary were an attempt to steal the election from him. “[A]t 10 or 11 o’clock Trump’s gonna walk in the Oval, tweet out, ‘I’m the winner. Game over. Suck on that,’” Bannon was recorded as saying.

That prediction was pretty much what happened, but Trump did not succeed in seizing the presidency. Next came plans to overturn the election results, and Bannon was also involved in those. Then, famously, on January 5, 2021, he predicted on his podcast that the next day, “all hell is going to break loose.”

Not surprisingly, the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol wanted to talk to Bannon. It subpoenaed him in September 2021 for testimony and documents. When he refused to comply, a jury found him guilty of contempt of Congress in October 2022. A judge sentenced him to four months in jail but allowed him to stay out of jail while he appealed.

Today a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld his conviction. He will not be jailed immediately; he can still appeal to a higher court. 

Another White House advisor, Peter Navarro, appealed all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn his own conviction for contempt of Congress after he, too, refused to answer a House subpoena for testimony and documents. The Supreme Court denied his appeal, and Navarro reported to prison on March 19, 2024. He has asked a federal judge to let him serve the remainder of his sentence on supervised release, so far without luck. 

Former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Joyce White Vance wrote: “Bannon is effectively out of appeals. He can delay a little bit longer, asking for the full court to review the decision en banc & asking SCOTUS to hear his case on cert, but neither one of those things will happen. Bannon is going to prison.”