Steve Bannon's attorney claimed the former senior aide to President Donald Trump was only following the advice of his lawyer when defying a subpoena and therefore should serve no jail time, The Hill reported. Bannon was sentenced after being found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress.
During the House of Representatives investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, riots, Bannon refused to respond to a subpoena issued by the lawmakers. He was sentenced to four months in jail but has not served time during his appeal of the verdict.
Robert Costello was representing Bannon at the time and told his client that he did not have to testify due to presidential privilege. However, Bannon never notified the committee of his decision and was held in contempt.
Bannon attorney David Schoen argued that taking this advice "honestly and in good faith" should shield his client from prosecution, noting that there is precedent for this defense. "Even if such advice by the lawyer was an inaccurate construction of the law," Schoen clarified.
He also asserted that Trump had told Bannon that what was said fell under presidential privilege, further confirming his right to silence. "Advice of counsel is the defense," Schoen said, noting that the privilege was "presumptively valid" at the time.
Unfortunately for Bannon, the three-judge appeals panel did not buy the defense. Rather, even under executive privilege, the court believed Bannon would still have to respond to the subpoena.
Schoen pushed further along the same lines in hopes of sparing Bannon jail time. "I ask the court to consider in the broader picture: How should a lay person respond when a lay person gets a subpoena from a committee and have all communications through the lawyer and the lawyer tells him or her, in definitive terms, they may not comply, their hands are tied?" he posited.
"At least let a jury decide whether that was reasonable or appropriate advice, whether the lawyer had all of the facts, but let the jury decide," Shoen went on. "We don’t treat a person who believes he or she is acting in full compliance with the law … the same as a wrongdoer … a mobster who just didn’t show up," he added.