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From the Darkness and Back Into It: How Steve Bannon May Disappear from American Life for Good

A combative and divisive approach has defined Bannon’s political career. Brian Daitzman writes that his time in the public eye appears to be drawing to a close, with prison looming and severe legal challenges on the horizon.
Published:June 13, 2024

By Brian Daitzman

Steve Bannon once declared, “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power” in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. 

Embracing these controversial comparisons, Bannon suggested that power often comes from being feared and misunderstood. He added, “It only helps us when they...get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing.” This combative and divisive approach has defined Bannon’s political career, which he once likened to that of Thomas Cromwell, the influential and ruthless advisor in Henry VIII’s court. However, as Bannon now faces severe legal challenges, his time in the public eye appears to be drawing to a close, potentially pushing him back into the obscurity from which he emerged.

Imminent Federal Incarceration

Bannon's immediate future is grim. He is scheduled to begin a four-month federal prison sentence on July 1, 2024, for contempt of Congress, having been convicted nearly two years ago on two counts. This conviction stems from his refusal to comply with a subpoena from the January 6th committee investigating the Capitol insurrection. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, appointed by Trump, ruled that the original basis for a stay of the sentence no longer exists, compelling Bannon to report to prison.

Fraud, "We Build the Wall" Scheme, and New York Indictment

Bannon’s legal troubles extend beyond the contempt charge and involve significant fraud allegations tied to the "We Build the Wall" campaign, a fundraising effort purporting to support the construction of a border wall. The campaign raised about $25 million from donors who were led to believe that 100% of their contributions would go exclusively towards the wall, with no salaries being paid. However, Bannon and his associates, including Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, diverted millions for personal use, spending on luxury items such as a boat, a luxury SUV, and cosmetic surgery.

As Chairman of the Advisory Board for WeBuildTheWall, Inc., Bannon played a central role in orchestrating this fraudulent scheme. He directed the transfer of funds through various entities to conceal payments to Kolfage while publicly assuring donors that all funds were dedicated solely to the wall’s construction. This manipulation and deceit led to the indictment of Bannon and his co-conspirators on charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud.

Although President Trump pardoned Bannon for related federal charges, this pardon does not cover state offenses. New York prosecutors were able to indict Bannon because the fraudulent activities had a direct impact on donors in New York, providing the state with jurisdiction over the case. The state indictment, announced for trial in September 2024, includes charges of money laundering, conspiracy, and fraud, which carry a potential maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison. This legal jeopardy underscores a crucial point: while Bannon escaped federal consequences due to Trump’s pardon, he remains vulnerable to state-level prosecution for the same fraudulent actions.

Impact of Co-Defendants' Convictions

The convictions of Bannon’s co-defendants highlight the severity of the charges against him. Brian Kolfage and Andrew Badolato, implicated in the same scheme, have already pleaded guilty and received significant prison sentences—Kolfage was sentenced to over four years, while Badolato received three years. Their convictions under the same set of facts suggest a strong case against Bannon. If found guilty, Bannon’s prior federal conviction could result in a harsher sentence due to his criminal background.

Bannon’s Role in January 6 and Its Aftermath

Bannon’s influence in the events leading up to and on January 6, 2021, was significant and controversial. On his War Room podcast on January 5, 2021, he urged his listeners to mobilize, stating, “We’re on the point of attack. All hell will break loose tomorrow.” This inflammatory rhetoric contributed to the charged atmosphere that culminated in the Capitol insurrection. Bannon’s message was clear as his supporters gathered: “It’s them against us. Who can impose their will on the other side?”

Bannon’s strategy wasn’t limited to mere rhetoric. He was involved in planning efforts to contest the 2020 election results by falsely declaring victory and later alleging fraud. In a pre-election meeting on October 31, 2020, Bannon outlined this plan: “What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory. Right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner.” He explained that Trump would leverage early in-person voting results to claim a win and challenge the legitimacy of mail-in ballots that would be counted later.

Bannon anticipated that Trump’s actions would lead to chaos and political violence. “So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm. You’re going to have Antifa, crazy. The media, crazy. The courts are crazy. And Trump’s gonna be sitting there mocking, tweeting shit out: ‘You lose. I’m the winner. I’m the king,’” Bannon said, predicting widespread unrest.

Post-election, Bannon advocated for a strategy to take control of the Republican Party from the bottom up through the "precinct strategy," urging his supporters to become precinct officers and flood the lowest levels of the party structure. This led to a surge in GOP precinct officers and disruptions in local elections, often driven by conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric.

“Here’s the thing. After then, Trump never has to go to a voter again,” Bannon said. “He’s gonna fire [Christopher] Wray, the FBI director…He’s gonna say ‘Fuck you. How about that?’ Because…he’s done his last election. Oh, he’s going to be off the chain—he’s gonna be crazy.”

Limited Freedom Before New York Trial

Steve Bannon will face a brief period of freedom between his anticipated release from federal prison and the commencement of his trial in New York. He is expected to complete his four-month federal prison sentence for contempt of Congress in November 2024, providing him with approximately eight weeks of freedom before his state trial begins, which is scheduled for early January 2025.

New York criminal trials can last several weeks or even longer, depending on the complexity of the case. Bannon, currently 70 years old, may face years in state prison if convicted. His prior federal conviction for contempt of Congress could negatively impact his sentencing in New York, potentially resulting in a harsher penalty. This limited period of freedom, coupled with the imminent threat of a substantial prison term, highlights the precariousness of Bannon’s current legal and personal situation.

Life Expectancy in Prison

Considering Bannon’s age—currently 70—and the harsh realities of prison life, a lengthy sentence could significantly impact his life expectancy. For every year spent in prison, life expectancy is reduced by about two years. The average life expectancy in the United States overall is 77 years, and for white males, it is approximately 74.5 years. The average age of death for incarcerated individuals in New York State is 57 years, significantly lower than the general population. Given these factors, a long prison term could severely diminish Bannon’s remaining lifespan, making it unlikely that he would emerge in good health, if at all.

Declining Influence Back Into the Shadows

Bannon’s influence in American politics has been waning, further isolated by the legal troubles of his long-term patron, Guo Wengui. Wengui, who supported many of Bannon's ventures, is now in federal custody for various crimes, underlining Bannon’s diminishing support and resources.

The impact of Bannon’s strategies, particularly his “precinct strategy,” has been profound yet divisive. This approach led to a surge in GOP precinct officers and disruptions in local elections, often fueled by conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric. Despite this, his radical influence appears to be losing its grip as legal challenges mount and public scrutiny increases, pushing him back into the darkness he once embraced and championed.

Source List

  1. Steve Bannon's Quote on Power:

2. Steve Bannon Ordered to Surrender to Prison by July 1:

3. Stephen K. Bannon Found Guilty of Contempt of Congress:

4. Indictment Document for Steve Bannon:

5. Steve Bannon's Influence on GOP Precinct Strategy:

6. NYS Legislators' Letter on Aging and Incarcerated Elders:

7. Leaked Audio of Steve Bannon Discussing Trump’s Election Strategy:


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