Trump tries to set low expectations, and floats excuses, for debate with Biden

June 21, 2024

A few minutes into his speech at a campaign rally on Tuesday, June 20, Donald Trump asked a question of the few thousand who’d turned up to hear him speak. “Is anybody going to watch the debate?”

Trump was in Racine, Wisconsin, but it was clear his mind was in Atlanta,—the site of his debate matchup against President Biden next week, reports The New York Times.

He repeatedly mused about the potential scenarios, lowering expectations that he would dominate Biden and then, as if he couldn’t help himself, raising them again.

The expectations game is a particular challenge for the Trump campaign. Trump, 78, has spent months casting the 81-year-old Biden as a husk of a man who can barely walk or formulate complete sentences. Republicans have pumped out a stream of videos of Biden walking stiffly—some deceptively edited—that are meant to be proof of Biden’s decline.

Trump’s supporters in Racine showed they have been marinating in this content. “Biden can’t stand up!” one woman yelled during Trump’s speech. She stood near another woman who wore a T-shirt with a picture of Biden that read, “Impeach me. I won’t remember.”

But Trump also was preparing for his caricature of Biden to be punctured next week. He openly wrestled with the obvious question: What if Biden clears the very low bar that Trump has now set for him?

He had answers: If that should happen, it’s only because Biden will be “pumped up,” he told his followers, suggesting that the president would hoover up a pile of cocaine beforehand, since the drug was recently found in the White House by the Secret Service—although investigators never did figure out how it got there and it was not linked to the president or anyone in his family. (Still, it was an acutely cutting notion, coming a week after the Delaware trial that publicly aired the first family’s struggle with Hunter Biden’s addiction.)

Trump also told his followers to be suspicious of the whole debate enterprise, although his campaign negotiated the terms of his participation.

They should keep in mind, he said, that he’ll be up against multiple adversaries at once—not just Biden but both of CNN’s moderators, Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, whom, Trump added, were constitutionally incapable of treating him fairly. “I’ll be debating three people instead of one-half of a person,” he said.

While it’s clear Biden has physically slowed and his gait stiffened in recent years, his doctor in February called him “fit for duty.” Trump has not disclosed a detail summary of his health. Neither man has released a comprehensive assessment of his mental fitness.

Lately, Mr. Trump has been experiencing his own adventures in aging for all to see. Last week, he bragged about passing a cognitive test when he was president but mixed up the name of the doctor who’d administered it. He also has confused Nancy Pelosi with Nikki Haley, and Biden with Barack Obama.

And so Democrats have their own set of video clips they’ve been consuming—seeing evidence of aging in Trump’s curious tangents about sharks and boats with electric batteries; or in the way he bollixes up words, as he did at the rally on Tuesday, when he barked at the Biden campaign for saying that “the videos of crooked Joe shuffling are clean fakes.”

He asked the crowd, “Do you know what a clean fake is?” The term Trump was reaching for is actually “cheap fake”—real footage that has been edited deceptively, omitting context by zooming in or cropping out.

In Racine, some of Trump’s supporters took a more nuanced view of the videos of Biden, the age factor, and how it all played into expectations for the debate.

“Oh, absolutely, we see them on every channel, and all over the Internet of course,” Marjean Stern, 79, a retiree from Kenosha, Wisconsin said of the videos of Biden. But, given her own age, she confessed to feeling a little queasy at the way her candidate has revelled in Biden’s seemingly senior moments.

“We’re elderly, so we don’t like that,” she said. “I don’t want to make fun of him. I [am] him.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden announces policy shielding undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens from deportation

June 20, 2024

President Joe Biden is taking executive action to protect undocumented spouses of American citizens—a move that would shield about 500,000 immigrants from deportation, reports NBC News.

The White House announced the election-year policy on Tuesday, June 19—framing it as “new action to keep families together.”

NBC News reported last week that action protecting the spouses was likely to be announced soon; after urging action from immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers, and as the president courts Latino voters in crucial battleground states.

The new policy would allow noncitizens who have been in the country for at least ten years and are married to a U.S. citizen, and their children, to apply for permanent residence without leaving the country.

During a ceremony at the White House, Biden called the steps a “commonsense fix” to a system that is “cumbersome, risky and separates families.”

He said the order would go into effect this summer and stressed that it would not benefit people who recently came into the country. Instead, it would help people who are “paying taxes and contributing to our country” and their family members.

“This is the biggest thing since DACA,” said a source familiar with the matter, an immigration advocate.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—announced by then-President Barack Obama in 2012—allowed immigrants who illegally came to the United States as children to stay in the country.

Foreshadowing the likely battles to come over the policy, the White House was keen to stress that it has been tough on unlawful border crossings and has worked to dismantle people-smuggling networks.

The president “believes that securing the border is essential,” it said in a news release Tuesday outlining the new action.

“He also believes in expanding lawful pathways and keeping families together, and that immigrants who have been in the United States for decades, paying taxes and contributing to their communities, are part of the social fabric of our country,” the statement said.

The statement added that the spouses eligible to apply for this have been in the United States for 23 years on average. The program would also make it easier for some undocumented immigrants to get a green card and a path to U.S. citizenship.

Sources also say that the undocumented spouses would be allowed to obtain work permits on a case-by-case basis.

The action includes plans to allow DACA recipients who earned degrees in higher education and are seeking a job in that same field to more quickly receive work visas.

Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, blasted the executive action.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Wisconsin, Trump said that if he’s elected in November, Biden’s new immigration policy would be immediately “ripped up and thrown out.”

“It’s been a nonstop catastrophe, but one of crooked Joe’s most destructive moves yet is the lawless executive action he’s taken today,” Trump said. “Under this program, a deluge of illegals will be given immediate green cards and put on the fast track to rapid citizenship so they can vote.”

The presumptive Republican nominee for president, who has made immigration and border issues a cornerstone of his campaign, said “millions” of immigrants would benefit from the program—a figure that contrasts with a White House estimate that it would impact roughly 500,000 people who are spouses and 50,000 non-citizen children who are under 21 with a non-citizen parent who married an American before they were 18 who may also qualify.

The new program is expected to be challenged in court.

Noting the likelihood of lawsuits, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that passing legislation would be “the only action that will fully allow these deserving individuals to put down roots, start families, further their education, and continue contributing to our society without fear of deportation.”

But Durbin also acknowledged that getting a bill through Congress would be unlikely given Republican opposition to previous immigration overhauls.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Steve Bannon won’t be spending his prison term in a ‘Club Fed,’ as he had hoped

June 18, 2024

When former Trump adviser Steve Bannon goes to prison, he won’t be serving time at what’s known as a “Club Fed,” the most comfortable type of facility in the federal system, as he had wanted, according to people familiar with the arrangements, reports CNN.

Instead of a minimum-security prison camp, where many nonviolent offenders serve their time, Bannon—now a right-wing podcaster with a following of loyal Trump supporters—is set to report next month to the low-security federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, one of the sources told CNN.

A federal judge ruled recently that Bannon must turn himself in by July 1 to begin serving a four-month sentence for contempt of Congress even as he appeals the case. His attorneys initially thought he may be able to do his time at a camp, the sources said.

But Bannon isn’t eligible for the lowest-level prison setup because he still has a pending criminal case against him in New York, where he is fighting the charges and set to go to trial in September. That case accuses him of defrauding donors in a fundraising effort branded the “We Build the Wall” campaign for a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Bannon was convicted by a federal jury two years ago in Washington, D.C., for not complying with a subpoena for an interview and documents in the U.S. House’s January 6, 2021, investigation. He has remained a staunch Trump ally and has been a vocal supporter of his presidential reelection bid.

Bannon’s lawyers have written to the D.C. US Circuit Court of Appeals that his imprisonment shouldn’t happen this summer, as the trial-level judge has ordered, because he would be behind bars “for the four-month period leading up to the November election, when millions of Americans look to him for information on important campaign issues,” according to a recent filing for Bannon.

“This would also effectively bar Mr. Bannon from serving as a meaningful advisor in the ongoing national campaign,” Bannon’s lawyers wrote.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has declined to comment—saying it could not release specific information on prisoners until after they’re in custody, for security and privacy reasons.

The prison in Connecticut where Bannon will live houses a large number of white-collar criminals, but it also may house violent and sex offenders in its men’s population. More than 1,000 male prisoners are in the Danbury facility.

It doesn’t have cells and, instead, houses its inmates in open pods. Yet it does have a noticeable barrier— referred to colloquially as “the wall”—between the prison facility and the outside world, which prison camps don’t have.

Bannon could still potentially face rougher prison environments. He may need to be held in a facility in New York City, such as the infamous Rikers Island jail, during his state trial proceedings if it takes place while he is still serving his federal sentence, one of the sources said.

His time in federal prison is likely to run through October if no appeals court intervenes, the person said.

Bannon and Peter Navarro—another Trump adviser who was sent to prison for contempt of Congress in the January 6 investigation—are not able to be released earlier than their four-month terms in prison, as some first-time offenders can be, because their sentences don’t include time under supervised release, people familiar with their situations tell CNN.

Navarro is set to be released on July 17. This means that both Navarro and Bannon will be behind bars during the Republican National Convention in mid-July.

Both men retained prison consultant Sam Mangel to help them have the best setup on the inside.

Bannon is awaiting word from the DC Circuit this week on whether a panel of three judges would be willing to keep him out of prison for the moment. He has already lost one round of appeals, but his lawyers say he intends to go to the Supreme Court.

Research contact: @CNN

Jewish senators alarmed by Alito’s pro-Christian agenda

June 17, 2024

Jewish Democratic senators are alarmed by conservative Justice Samuel Alito’s sympathy for basing government on Christian principles—something he expressed at a Supreme Court gala when he endorsed the idea of returning the nation to a place of “godliness,” reports NBC News.

Democratic senators, including several Jewish lawmakers, fear Alito’s majority opinions in several high-profile cases—such as the Dobbs decision, which overturned the right to abortion—were driven by his religious views.

And they are not buying Alito’s claim that he had nothing to do with and couldn’t prevent the flying of an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, a symbol of the Christian nationalist movement, at his New Jersey beach house.

Senate Democrats say members of the Supreme Court have a right to religious freedom; but warn that when they try to impose their religious views on others, it crosses a line.

A Jewish Democratic senator who requested anonymity to comment on Alito said he is pushing a sectarian religious agenda on the court.

“I don’t think there’s really any doubt. I don’t think Alito and [conservative Justice Clarence] Thomas are being shy. They have a view of the world, and they’re trying to establish an official religion, and a specific denomination,” the lawmaker said.

Five of the court’s conservative justices are Catholic, and a sixth, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was raised as a Catholic but also attends Episcopal services.

Senator Ben Cardin (D-Marland), who is Jewish, said it’s alarming “when you take a look at Dobbs and see how the majority in the Supreme Court could disregard precedent that protects the individual against the abuses of power,” including what he called the power of “religious fundamentalism.”

He said the conservative majority’s erosion of individual rights, including the right to abortion and potentially the right to contraception or same-sex marriage, is especially worrisome “to those of us that have different religious views.”

“I do worry that when you get these fundamentalist views that we’re a Christian state when we’re not a Christian state, the minority religions are going to be in trouble,” he said.

Cardin said “the trend of this court” is “you see four or five justices that have seemed to be pretty determined for an agenda to take us in a wrong direction.”

“When I’m in a meeting, a public meeting, I don’t particularly want to hear government officials supporting one religion over another. And I’m in a minority religion, being Jewish, so I want to make sure there’s not an expansion for that,” he said.

Cardin said he’s often invited to churches as a senator and doesn’t mind being in the midst of Christian worship, “but I don’t want our government doing that.”

Alito found himself embroiled in controversy once again this month after he was recorded telling a liberal activist at a Supreme Court gala that he agreed the country needs to return “to a place of godliness.” The activist was posing as a conservative, and Alito did not know he was being recorded.

The recording became public a few days after The New York Times reported an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which has become a symbol of Christian nationalism, was displayed at his New Jersey beach house.

Alito explained in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) that his wife hoisted the flag at his property and insisted he “had no involvement in the decision to fly [it].” He also said he “was not familiar with the ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag when my wife flew it.”

But Democratic senators are skeptical: “I think there is a far-right group that is exploiting religion for a political agenda that is anti-woman, anti-choice, anti-science and wants to roll back our essential constitutional rights, and they’re exploiting every institution, whether the Supreme Court or Congress, to advance that agenda,” Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), who is Jewish, said when asked about the rise of Christian nationalism on the right and the display of the “Appeal to Heaven” flag at Alito’s property.

“I’m not as sure that a lot of the faith leaders in this country realize how potentially damaging to democracy it is,” he said.

Blumenthal said he’s worried Alito’s biggest decisions have blurred the line between church and state.

 “It’s downright scary,” he said. “The founders of our Constitution came to this country or descended from people who made that journey here because they wanted to be free of the government telling them what their faith and religious belief should be.”

Blumenthal emphasized he’s “a person of faith, and I respect other people’s faiths,” but he said “to advance one faith over another or to discriminate against any faith is abhorrent and repugnant and should never be part of any law in this country.”

“My hope is that Alito and others who seem to share that view that they want to turn this nation into a country reflective of only one faith will be rejected by the vast majority of Americans,” he said.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Supreme Court upholds access to mifepristone abortion pill in unanimous decision

June 13, 2024

On Thursday, June 13, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that a group of anti-abortion doctors does not have any legal basis to challenge access to mifepristone, one of the two common drugs used in medication abortion.

As a result, access to mifepristone won’t change, reports The Hill.

The opinion, written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, sided with the Biden Administration and Danco, the manufacturer of the branded version of mifepristone. It reversed a lower court decision that would have made it more difficult to obtain the drug, which is used in about two-thirds of U.S. abortions.

The ruling didn’t address the underlying regulatory or safety issues the plaintiffs raised, instead deciding the case only on standing. The justices found the conservative doctors in the lawsuit did not show they had personally been harmed by the government’s actions regulating mifepristone.

“Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue,” Kavanaugh wrote.

The drug will remain available to people up to the tenth week of pregnancy and will still be available through the mail. The decision is a victory for the Biden Administration’s efforts to maintain access to abortion, but it also is a victory for the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate drugs.

Leading up oral arguments, pharmaceutical companies and FDA law experts urged the court not to second-guess the agency’s expertise and side with the plaintiffs. A ruling against the administration could have undermined the entire drug approval process, they argued.

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision in this incredibly important case. By rejecting the Fifth Circuit’s radical, unprecedented and unsupportable interpretation of who has standing to sue, the justices reaffirmed longstanding basic principles of administrative law,” said Abigail Long, a spokesperson for Danco. “The decision also safeguards access to a drug that has decades of safe and effective use.”

Still, mifepristone remains illegal in the more than a dozen states that ban abortion.

The case centered on whether federal regulators overstepped their authority by loosening restrictions to make mifepristone easier to access. The FDA first approved mifepristone in 2000 for abortion up to seven weeks of pregnancy, but then made a series of changes in 2016 and 2021.

Those changes included increasing the gestational age at which mifepristone can be used to up to ten weeks of pregnancy, allowing the medication to be mailed to patients, lowering the dosage, allowing telehealth prescribing, and permitting providers other than physicians to prescribe the drug.

The FDA has repeatedly found that mifepristone is safe and that a medication abortion regimen that includes mifepristone and a second drug, misoprostol, is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortions.

Research contact: @thehill

Lindsey Graham says he will block Democrats’ effort to pass Supreme Court ethics bill

June 12, 2024

Senator Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, plans to block an effort by Senate Democrats to unanimously pass a Supreme Court ethics billon Wednesday, June 12, on the Senate floor, reports NBC News.

“I will object,” Graham (R-South Carolina), told NBC News. Graham’s objection means the bill won’t be able to move forward, because any senator can block a request.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said earlier on Tuesday, June 11, that he would make a unanimous consent request to pass Supreme Court ethics legislation that the panel advanced last July. A unanimous consent is an agreement on any question or matter before the Senate that sets aside a rule of procedure to expedite proceedings.

It isn’t clear whether the measure will come up for a vote under the normal process, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said he’s considering it.

Even before Graham made his comments, Democrats doubted the legislation would advance. “I think I know the outcome, but we’re going to go through the exercise to make sure that both parties are in the record,” Durbin told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee advanced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act on a party-line vote nearly a year ago, but it can’t break a filibuster on the Senate floor without 60 votes. Democrats have 51 members, and no Republican is on board with the bill.

In a news release, Democrats said the vote follows “a myriad of apparent ethical lapses by Supreme Court justices, which demonstrate the need for ethics reform.”

A spokesperson for the Supreme Court didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night.

The bill would give the court 180 days to adopt and publish a code of conduct—allowing the public to submit ethics complaints that would then be reviewed by a randomly selected panel of lower-court judges. It would also establish new rules for disclosing gifts and travel.

In addition, the legislation would require justices to publicly explain any decisions to recuse from cases.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Alito says one side of political fight is ‘going to win,’ private event recordings reveal

June 11, 2024

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said that the political rift between America’s left and right would be extremely difficult to repair—and that one side was “going to win”—according to secretly recorded comments at a private event earlier this month, reports HuffPost.

Lauren Windsor, who describes herself as a documentarian and journalist, shared recordings of two encounters with Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts at an annual event held by the Supreme Court Historical Society on June 3. She said she posed as a religious conservative and held discussions with both men.

At one point, Windsor told Alito she didn’t believe conservatives could “negotiate with the left in the way that needs to happen for polarization to end.”

“I think you’re probably right,” Alito replied in the recorded conversation. “One side or the other is going to win. I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working, a way of living together peacefully, but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised.”

Windsor went on to say that people who “believe in God have got to keep fighting … to return our country to a place of godliness.”

“I agree with you,” Alito said. “I agree with you.”

The recordings were released as the court faces new ethics questions raised by reports that two flags affiliated with the January 6, 2021, insurrectionists were flown outside Alito’s homes in recent years. The justice has refused calls to recuse himself from cases before the court related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump and to the former president’s claims of absolute immunity from prosecution for his actions while in office.

Windsor’s conversations with Roberts were far more confrontational. As Windsor attempted to tell the chief justice the nation needs to be put on a more “moral path,” Roberts pushed back.

“Would you want me to be in charge of putting the nation on a more moral path?” he asked. “That’s for people we elect. That’s not for lawyers.”

When Windsor again tried to say that America is a “Christian nation,” Roberts took umbrage.

“I don’t know that we live in a Christian nation,” he said. “I know a lot of Jewish and Muslim friends who would say maybe not, and it’s not our job to do that.”

The chief justice went on to say the court’s role in trying times is “nothing new,” pointing to the fractured political landscape after the Vietnam War.

Windsor belongs to the society and bought a ticket to the event using her real name, but she did not identify herself as a journalist or tell the justices she was recording them. She told The New York Times that she thought keeping the recording secret was the only way to get the justices to share their honest thoughts and provide proof, “otherwise, it’s just my word against theirs.”

“We have a court that has refused to submit to any accountability whatsoever—they are shrouded in secrecy” she told the Times on Monday. “I don’t know how, other than going undercover, I would have been able to get answers to these questions.”

The nonprofit society is billed as a nonpartisan group focused on preserving and collecting the history of the Supreme Court and raising public awareness about its work.

However, the body, whose honorary chair is Justice Roberts—and which counts Harlan Crow, Justice Clarence Thomas’ controversial benefactor, among its board of trustees—has faced controversy in the past few years.

The New York Times in 2022 reported that it had become a conduit of influence-peddling by “corporations, special interest groups, or lawyers and firms that argued cases before the court,” accounting for 60% of its contributions since 2003.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Trump is scheduled for Monday pre-sentencing interview after hush-money conviction

June 10, 2024

Former President Donald Trump is scheduled for a pre-sentencing interview with a probation officer on Monday, June 10, following his hush-money trial conviction last month, reports CNN.

The interview will be virtual and, as CNN previously reported, Trump attorney Todd Blanche will be present. Typically, a convicted defendant meets with a probation officer without an attorney.

Monday’s routine pre-sentencing interview—which was first reported by NBC News—will form part of the report the probation department will submit to Judge Juan Merchan to help decide Trump’s punishment ahead of his sentencing, set for July 11.

Last month, a Manhattan jury found Trump—the presumptive GOP presidential nominee—guilty of all 34 charges in his hush-money trial, making him the first former president to be convicted of a felony.

Trump does not have to cooperate with the routine pre-sentencing investigation, but a judge can take a negative inference from a defendant’s lack of cooperation with the process.

In the pre-sentencing interview, a defendant is typically asked about his or her conviction and other basic background information; such as their employment and criminal history.

As part of the process, Trump’s legal team can submit letters of support from his friends and family to Merchan. The former president’s team is scheduled to submit its sentencing recommendation on Thursday, June 13, according to a source familiar with the plan.

Attr“President Trump and his legal team are already taking necessary steps to challenge and defeat the lawless Manhattan DA case,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement on Saturday, June 8.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office also will submit a memo telling the judge what sentence it sees fit for Trump.
Merchan could sentence Trump to probation—or up to four years in state prison on each count, with a maximum of 20 years.

Prosecutors have never sought to remand Trump into custody, so the former president is free as he awaits sentencing.

Research contact: @CNN

Trump no longer can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue

June 7, 2024

During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump once infamously claimed, regarding his unwavering supporters, that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?” At the time, it just seemed like more self-aggrandizing hyperbole from America’s most outlandish presidential candidate,—but in the years since, a great many of us have wondered if maybe he was right. Now, New Yorkers can finally rest easy, reports New York Magazine.

CNN reported on Wednesday, June 5, that, according to a senior police official, the NYPD plans to revoke Trump’s license to carry a gun in the city on account of his recent felony conviction: Trump’s New York concealed carry license was quietly suspended on April 1, 2023, following his indictment on criminal charges in New York, the official said.

Two of the three pistols he was licensed to carry were turned over to the NYPD on March 31, 2023, and a third gun listed on Trump’s license “was lawfully moved to Florida,” the person added … The NYPD’s Legal Bureau will complete its investigation “that will likely lead to revocation of his license,” the senior police official said.

Trump could seek a hearing challenging the revocation. Trump has had a license from the NYPD to carry a concealed firearm for more than a decade, according to multiple law enforcement sources, but because Trump’s application came with a request for confidentiality, they are exempt from public records requests, according to the NYPD’s guidelines and New York State law.

What will happen with his gun in Florida is not clear. The Trace reports that, after Trump’s hush-money trial conviction is formalized, it would violate federal gun laws for the former president to continue packing heat in the state—at least for now, since the gun-rights lobby continues to mount legal challenges against the federal ban on felons owning guns.

So, it’s still possible that Trump could gun someone down in cold blood outside Mar-a-Lago, and that his voters might shrug it off as a necessary cost of making America great. But it appears that innocent bystanders on Fifth Avenue, and everywhere else in New York, are finally safe from this supposed thought experiment.

Research contact: @nymagazine

Judge orders Steve Bannon to report to prison on July 1 for contempt of Congress sentence

June 6, 2024

On Thursday, June 6, a federal judge ordered former Trump adviser Steve Bannon to report to prison on July 1 to begin a four-month prison sentence for defying subpoenas from the January 6 Committee after a higher court rejected his appeal, reports NBC News.

Bannon was found guilty on two counts of contempt of Congress in July 2022 for defying the committee’s subpoenas, but his sentence had been put on hold while he appealed the case. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said Thursday he did not believe that the “original basis” for his stay of the imposition of Bannon’s sentence existed any longer after an appeals court upheld Bannon’s conviction. Bannon could still appeal Nichol’s ruling that he must report to prison.

Bannon was sentenced more than a year and a half ago, in October 2022, to four months behind bars—the same sentence currently being served by former Trump adviser Peter Navarro, who also refused to comply with a January 6 Committee subpoena.

“The defendant chose allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Molly Gaston, who now serves on special counsel Jack Smith’s team, told jurors during closing arguments in 2022.

Bannon’s sentence was put on hold pending appeal, and his lawyers made their case to a three-judge federal appeals court panel last November. The appeals court upheld Bannon’s conviction in May, and federal prosecutors soon filed a motion asking Nichols to order Bannon to report to prison. Federal prosecutors told Nichols there was “no legal basis” for the continued stay of the sentence after the federal appeals court rejected the appeal.

Bannon’s lawyers argued that the sentence should be stayed until they appeal it to the full appeals court and the Supreme Court. Any delay, of course, would benefit Bannon if Trump is elected president in November and decides — just as he did on the last day of his presidency on Jan. 20, 2021 — to pardon Bannon on federal criminal charges.

Bannon smiled as he went through security to enter the courthouse Thursday morning. A person nearby said “Trump ‘24!” to him and Bannon smiled and shook his hand.

Following the judge’s decision, he looked calm and stayed smiling. Bannon’s lawyer, David Schoen, sprang into action—becoming much more passionate than he’d been during the rest of the hearing.

Judge Nichols told him: “One thing you have to learn as a lawyer is that when the judge has made his decision, you don’t stand up and start yelling,” adding through Schoen’s protests: “I’ve had enough.”

“I’m not yelling,” Schoen retorted, saying he was “passionate.”

“You’re sending a man to prison who thought he was complying with the law, we don’t do that in my system,” Schoen said, calling the decision “contrary to our system of justice.”

“I think you should sit down,” Nichols responded.

Research contact: @NBCNews