Steve Bannon is heading to prison and Trump is losing a key voice in the months before the election

June 8, 2024
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But it’s not just his show. MAGA Republicans quickly bemoaned the political implications of losing Bannon as a political operative while he appeals his 2022 conviction for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The sentence was already suspended pending appeal, but in May, a federal appeals court refused to undo the conviction.

Bannon was ordered to report to prison by July 1 and is scheduled to serve a four-month term, which would see him released days before the election. 

“It’s not ideal. He commands a huge audience,” said Charlie Kirk, a Trump ally and right-wing activist who founded a conservative student organization that has built strong ties with the evangelical wing of the party. But he said that Bannon’s absence from the air could “prompt a rallying cry that will turn out to be much larger than even the show,” by driving higher turnout and galvanizing the base.​​

David Bossie, a close ally of Trump’s and co-chair of the Republican National Convention, called it an effort “to silence Steve,” telling NBC News that Bannon “does a lot of crucial and strategic work behind the scenes that will have an impact on the conservative movement and the campaign.” 

Trump painted Bannon as the latest casualty of a Justice Department “so desperate to jail” not just Bannon but all Republicans. In a post on Truth Social, Trump called the outcome “a Total and Complete American Tragedy.” 

The Justice Department has followed routine legal processes, including in a separate case involving Peter Navarro, who was also convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing a Jan. 6 committee subpoena and is serving his sentence at a federal penitentiary in Florida. 

There is little doubt that Trump would feel the loss of Bannon. 

In 2016, Bannon fortified Breitbart News, the arch-conservative publication he helmed, into a relentlessly pro-Trump tool. After the election, he joined Trump as a senior White House aide but fell out of favor and was bounced from the administration after less than a year.  

His show offered him a vehicle to return to Trump’s inner circle. He championed the push to overturn the 2020 election, Trump’s baseless claims of rampant fraud and the fight against the former president’s enemies in Congress and inside the Republican Party.

Bannon is not a household name for most Americans, but among the pundit and governing class — and particularly among die-hard political junkies — he is a behemoth.

Depicted by critics as a venomous propagandist who helped mastermind the populist uprising that swept Trump into office, Democrats say Bannon helped fuel some of the former president’s most incendiary positions and see his show as the vehicle through which he tries to shape conditions to prop up Trump. 

US President-elect Donald Trump boards the elevator after escorting Martin Luther King III to the lobby after meetings at Trump Tower in New York City on January 16, 2017.
Then-President-elect Donald Trump boards an elevator at Trump Tower in New York City on Jan. 16, 2017. Bannon and Trump are staunch allies.Dominick Reuter / AFP via Getty Images file

“I know we are not supposed to derive our happiness from others, but Steve Bannon going to jail has done the trick,” Anthony Scaramucci, a former Trump aide turned critic, wrote on X

Bannon has critics on the right who say his influence is overstated. None of that stops Bannon, his supporters and even his antagonists from heaping copious amounts of credit on him for his efforts. 

Bannon credits his audience for forcing a fundraising shortfall inside the party that so diminished Republican National Committee chief Ronna McDaniel’s standing that she had no choice but to leave. “The reason that RNC went into crisis was this audience turned off the tap,” he said. 

Tim Miller, a former Republican strategist and leading anti-Trump voice, points to the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., as proof that Bannon can move the GOP.  

“All of Fox was against Gaetz. Hour by hour. Everybody,” Miller said. “And they overthrew the speaker of the House.” 

This was “because they were able to use the power of the MAGA grassroots to convince enough people, enough of the members to go along with it,” he said. “I mean, that’s pretty crazy.”

‘Starving for some substance’

On most days, the place to find Bannon is in his studio a block from the Supreme Court, in a basement down a narrow set of stairs. 

There, Bannon sits under bright television studio-quality lights as a skeleton staff hastens to assemble a production with appearances from guests that, on one day in late February, included conservative firebrand lawyer Mike Davis, former Trump White House lawyer Mark Paoletta and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell.

At 10 a.m., the show started with a cold open.

Bannon’s prep is a reading of the day’s headlines, with forensic precision, and a near-constant consumption of cable news. 



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