Stephen K. Bannon Plans to Record His Podcast and Then Report to Prison


Immediately before reporting for a four-month sentence in federal prison on Monday, Stephen K. Bannon, the longtime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, will host the two final hours of his podcast from just outside the low-security facility in Danbury, Conn.

“We’ll be as close to the prison as we can possibly get,” said Mr. Bannon in a high-spirited interview over the weekend. And when the taping, which he cast as an unsubtle troll pointed at the Justice Department, is concluded, “I’ll walk across the street and surrender.”

Mr. Bannon on Friday lost his last-ditch bid to avoid incarceration, after the Supreme Court denied a request to postpone the sentence while he appealed a jury verdict that found him guilty of contempt for ignoring a congressional subpoena. As a result, the very public figure will remain out of view — and off the air — until just a few days before the Nov. 5 election.

But the right wing firebrand insists that swapping his studio mic for a prison job, and his trademark double-collared shirts for government khakis, will have little impact on his influential “War Room” podcast. In fact, he claims, it will “only get bigger and more powerful” while he’s in custody.

He’s prepared for this moment for months, Mr. Bannon said, enlisting a team of nearly 20 guest hosts to continue pumping out the show, which streams its distinctive stew of unvaryingly pro-Trump political patter for four hours a day, Monday through Friday, plus two additional hours on Saturdays.

That group includes Andrew Giuliani, the son of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani; Mr. Bannon’s daughter, Maureen; Noor Bin Laden, the niece of Osama Bin Laden known for her belief in conspiracy theories; and Jeffrey Clark, who served in the Justice Department under Mr. Trump and faces criminal charges in Georgia in connection with efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s 2020 election loss there. They’ll be responsible for managing the stream of Republican politicians, consultants, media figures, pollsters, policy wonks, donors, intellectuals and economists who use “War Room” as a bullhorn aimed directly at what is arguably Mr. Trump’s most loyal and engaged base of support.

Mr. Bannon said it will also feature Peter Navarro, a frequent “War Room” contributor and former trade adviser in the Trump administration who is set to finish serving his own contempt of Congress sentence in prison on July 17.

“The show must go on,” said Jack Posobiec, who will squeeze guest hosting duties in between episodes of his own popular political podcast.

He interviewed Mr. Bannon, in tandem with Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk, on Sunday night. He said he’ll make sure that Mr. Navarro is whisked directly from the low-security prison in Miami where he’s been since mid-March to Milwaukee for the Republican National Convention.

But not everyone is so sure that the absence — in the critical final months of the presidential race — won’t leave a mark. Mr. Bannon ran Mr. Trump’s successful 2016 campaign during its final months, and although he has no official role in this iteration, he speaks frequently with Mr. Trump and several of his top advisers about political matters. Most recently, Mr. Bannon said, he and Mr. Trump discussed strategy going into last week’s debate with President Biden.

He’s also a huge celebrity on the right, routinely drawing bigger crowds at events like the CPAC or Turning Point USA conferences than most politicians or any media figure short of Tucker Carlson.

“This is a big political blow,” said Mike Davis, a former congressional aide and attorney who has become one of Mr. Trump’s top surrogates on legal issues. “Steve Bannon is by far the intellectual leader and the general for the MAGA movement and can’t be replaced.”

Mr. Davis, a frequent guest on “War Room,” has also been tapped to pinch-hit as a host, noted that Mr. Bannon has a nearly unique ability to stir up action from the masses. “I get far more social media activity and donations when I go on Steve’s show than any other platform, including Fox News,” Mr. Davis said.

“It will certainly be a void,” agreed Laura Loomer, a right wing activist with her own podcast who also has strong ties to Mr. Trump.

The ability of Mr. Bannon to reach the Make America Great Again contingent will be severely limited by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Although FCI Danbury is a low-security facility, its rules nonetheless cap phone calls to 15 minutes at time, with a total limit of 320 minutes of calls per month. Inmates are not allowed to access the internet and can only send emails and texts to approved recipients through a fee-based email system that can be monitored by prison officials. Prisoners are also required to perform a prison job, often in facility maintenance or kitchen duty for recent arrivals and short-timers.

Clay Travis, a conservative radio host who also has a popular sports podcast, said that if he were going to prison, he’d be sure to call in to his own show from behind bars. “I’d be getting my team together to figure out whether I could make phone calls to distribute the show,” Mr. Travis said.

Mr. Bannon said he has no such intentions. He compared prison to his regimented years as an officer in the Navy, and intends to use his time there for focused work. He’ll limit phone calls and visits to his lawyers, he said, and is asking his fans not to send him letters of support, which he insists he’ll return unread.

Instead, he said, he’ll focus his free time on sending emails about the campaign to key people (he wouldn’t say who is on his approved list). He also plans to catch up on his reading: he’s ordered five books to work through, among them the King James Bible, “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” and a history of the Russian revolution.

He believes that his temporary disappearance will serve as a motivator to the millions of faithful listeners who routinely make “War Room” one of the country’s most-listened to political podcasts. And, according to Mr. Posobiec, he’ll get out just in time to help make the final push to Election Day triumph.

“It’s like an epic tale where the wizened leader isn’t able to be there until the final battle,” he said. “It’s going to be very much like the return of Gandalf.”

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