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D.C. Circuit Denies Stephen Bannon's Appeal of Contempt of Congress Conviction

A unanimous panel finds Bannon's arguments foreclosed by controlling precedent.


Today a unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected Stephen Bannon's appeal of his conviction for contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a congressional subpoena. Judge Garcia wrote the opinion in United States v. Bannon, joined in full by Judges Pillard and Walker.

Here's how Judge Garcia summarizes the case:

In September 2021, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol issued a subpoena to appellant Stephen Bannon to testify and provide documents. Bannon did not comply—he knew what the subpoena required but did not appear or provide a single document. Bannon was later convicted of violating the contempt of Congress statute, 2 U.S.C. § 192, which criminalizes "willfully" failing to respond to a congressional subpoena. Bannon insists that "willfully" should be interpreted to require bad faith and argues that his noncompliance does not qualify because his lawyer advised him not to respond to the subpoena. This court, however, has squarely held that "willfully" in Section 192 means only that the defendant deliberately and intentionally refused to comply with a congressional subpoena, and that this exact "advice of counsel" defense is no defense at all. See Licavoli v. United States, 294 F.2d 207, 207 (D.C. Cir. 1961). As both this court and the Supreme Court have repeatedly explained, a contrary rule would contravene the text of the contempt statute and hamstring Congress's investigatory authority. Because we have no basis to depart from that binding precedent, and because none of Bannon's other challenges to his convictions have merit, we affirm.