Trump ally Bannon asks Supreme Court to keep him out of prison pending appeal

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Steve Bannon, who has been a senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, made a last-ditch plea on Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep him out of prison until he finishes appealing his criminal conviction for contempt of Congress.

Bannon's petition was filed one day after a Washington-based federal appeals court, in a split decision, denied his emergency request to delay him from reporting to prison on July 1 as scheduled.

Bannon, a rightwing media firebrand and staunch Trump ally, was convicted in 2022 of two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress after he refused to turn over documents or testify to a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee that was investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters.

He was sentenced to four months in prison, but was allowed to delay starting his prison term while he appealed his conviction to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The D.C. Circuit ultimately upheld his conviction, prompting U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols on June 6 to order Bannon to report to prison on July 1.

In their filing on Friday, Bannon's attorneys argued that their client should remain free until the Supreme Court is able to make a decision on important legal questions in the case.

They said that Bannon's conviction should be overturned because he was wrongfully prevented at trial from presenting evidence that he relied on the advice of his attorney before refusing to provide documents or testify before Congress.

"Mr. Bannon was barred from presenting any evidence or argument on good faith reliance on counsel," they wrote.

"The government argued to the jury that the only explanation for Mr. Bannon's position was that he thought he was 'above the law' and 'didn't care.' ... Mr. Bannon was barred from responding to those false accusations about his state of mind."

In response to Bannon's petition, the Supreme Court asked prosecutors to respond by next Wednesday.

Bannon was a key adviser to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, then served as his chief White House strategist during 2017 before a falling out between them that was later patched up.

If Bannon is required to report to prison as scheduled, it means he would be behind bars for much of the remainder of the 2024 presidential race. Trump is the Republican candidate challenging Democratic President Joe Biden in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)