Bannon, Garland and Contempt of Congress: Part II (The Bannon Contempt)

Steve Bannon, a close political associate of former President Trump who briefly served in the Trump White House in 2017, was indicted, convicted, and sentenced to a four-month prison term for contempt of Congress in connection with the investigation conducted by the January 6 select committee. He has been ordered to report to prison on July 1, which is today.

Andy McCarthy’s June 8 column on the Bannon case seems primarily aimed at convincing the sort of MAGA-adjacent types who might still read National Review that there was nothing untoward about the trial judge’s decision to order Bannon to prison. This decision resulted in what McCarthy euphemistically calls “gnashing of teeth” by MAGA leaders, including Bannon and Trump. Trump, for example, posted on Truth Social that sending Bannon to prison represented the “unAmerican Weaponization of our Law Enforcement” and then demanded, with his usual logical consistency, that members of the select committee themselves be indicted. Even more ominously, Mike Davis, the former Gorsuch clerk and Senate Judiciary Committee staffer turned weird MAGA personality, warned “Biden Democrats” on X that “[y]our glee will turn into terror after January 20, 2025” and “[r]evenge is best served cold.”

McCarthy points out (as I did to Davis) that the trial judge, Carl Nichols, is a Trump appointee and thus not a very likely participant in a conspiracy of “Biden Democrats.” He explains in some detail why Judge Nichols had treated Bannon fairly and, if anything, had bent over backwards to give him every benefit of the doubt. All this sounds reasonable to me and certainly much more plausible than the idea that Nichols is somehow involved in “weaponizing” the law against poor Steve Bannon.

Perhaps to make these unpalatable facts go down easier, however, McCarthy castigates the Justice Department and the select committee for prosecuting Bannon in the first place. This is where I have a serious disagreement. McCarthy’s position seems to be that Bannon was most likely guilty of the crime charged, but that his legal position was plausible or “arguably lawful” and that the proper and “normal” way to resolve this disagreement was through a civil action, rather than criminal prosecution. This position makes no sense to me. Continue reading “Bannon, Garland and Contempt of Congress: Part II (The Bannon Contempt)”