- Bannon held calls with Trump the day before the attack on the US Capitol.
- He refused to cooperate with the panel, threatening to make it the “misdemeanor from hell.”
- But last week the judge in the case shot down a number of Bannon’s defenses.
WASHINGTON – A federal judge had just dealt a series of blows to the defense case of former White House strategist Steve Bannonwho goes to trial this week for defying to subpoena desde the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attackwhen attorney David Schoen could not contain his frustration any longer.
“What is the point of going to trial…if there are no defenses?” Schoen, Bannon’s defense attorney, told US District Judge Carl Nichols last week.
The attorney’s pessimistic assessment is a far cry from Bannon’s initial vow to aggressively challenge contempt charges and his threat to make the case the “misdemeanor from hell” for the government.
“I’m never going to go back down. We’re going to go on offense,” Bannon told a scrum of reporters outside the federal courthouse after charges were leveled late last year.
With jury selection set to begin Monday, the swagger Bannon and his defense team displayed months ago appears to have faded after a federal judge last week rejected multiple requests for a postponement, setting the stage for the flamboyant Donald Trump adviser’s confrontation with the government.
Catch up on the last Jan. 6 hearing:Jan. 6 hearing takeaways: Rioter regret, a push to size voting machines, Trump called witness
What has Bannon been charged with and what is the penalty if convicted?
Bannon faces two counts of contempt for his refusal to appear for a deposition and another involving his refusal to produce documents, despite a subpoena from the House committee, which has held a series of hearings this summer featuring damning testimony from former Trump administration officials.
Each count carries a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year in jail, as well as a maximum fine of $100,000.
Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to pursue the Bannon case represented an escalation of the House panel’s investigation and an important test for President Joe Biden’s Justice Department and an attorney general who vowed to separate politics from a department roiled during the Trump administration by the former president’s prior repeated intervention.
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Why does the committee want to talk to Bannon?
The committee’s interest in seeking Bannon’s testimony centers, at least in part, on two telephone contacts the former strategist had with Trump on Jan. 5, 2021.
The calls were highlighted during the panel’s Tuesday public hearingexamining the role of extremist groups who answered Trump’s call to gather in Washington.
After their initial Jan. 5 call, Bannon said on his podcast, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.
“It’s all converging and now we’re on, as they say, the point of attack,” Bannon said. “Right, the point of attack tomorrow. I’ll tell you this. It’s not gonna happen like you think it’s gonna happen. It’s gonna be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in.”
The committee revealed Trump and Bannon briefly spoke over the phone again for six minutes and the contents of the phone call are unknown.
What Trump did on Jan. 6 during the attack:On Jan. 6, Trump was out of public view as aides urged him to act. A breakdown of those 187 minutes.
Bannon isn’t the only former Trump helps to face charges for defying the Jan. 6 committee
Bannon is the first of two former Trump aides charged with contemplation to face trial.
Last month, the Justice Department unveiled contemplate charges against Peter Navarroa trade adviser to the former president for defying the same House panel.
Like Bannon, Navarro refused to testify by citing executive privilege to keep communications with Trump confidential.
The House had also cited former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino for contempt. But the Justice Department spared the two from criminal prosecution.
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Bannon offered last-minute Jan. 6 testimony, but his effort to delay trial failed
Bannon’s defense team has seen its avenues to challenge the case dwindle in the run-up to trial, mostly due to rulings issued by Nichols, appointed to the bench by Trump.
Nichols has rejected multiple requests from Bannon’s lawyers to delay the trial in recent days, citing pre-trial publicity related to public hearings hosted by the Jan. 6 committee.
Prosecutors immediately cast Bannon’s new willingness to cooperate with the committee he had challenged as a stunt to improve his chances at trial.
“His actions are little more than an attempt to change the optics of his contempt on the eve of trial, not an actual effort at compliance,” prosecutors said in court documents. “The Defendant’s timing suggests that the only thing that has really changed since he refused to comply with the subpoena … is that he is finally about to face the consequences of his decision to default.”
Judge picked apart Bannon’s defenses
At the same Monday hearing, Nichols also severely restricted Bannon’s possible lines of defense.
Nichols ruled that Bannon cannot offer evidence that he relied on the advice of his counsel in refusing to cooperate with the committee’s subpoena, saying that such an assertion does not shield him from conduct that is deliberate and intentional.
The judge further ruled that Bannon could not offer alleged rule violations by the committee, as he has previously asserted. And he quashed Bannon’s efforts to subpoena House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other House leaders and Jan. 6 committee members.
Bannon’s team asserted the bipartisan committee was not properly formed and sought Pelosi’s testimony related to her role in selecting the panel members.
House Counsel Douglas Letter challenged the request for the testimony of Pelosi and other lawmakers as an attempt to fuel a “political circus.”
The next Jan. 6 hearing is Thursday:committee to walk through the events of Jan. 6 “minute by minute”
Judge: trial will go on despite publicity from Jan. 6 hearings
Nichols said lingering concerns about pre-trial publicity, given the trial’s proximity to extensive media coverage of the House committee hearings, which continue Thursday, could be resolved by closely vetting potential jurors.
If there was difficulty seating a jury due to any potential prejudice, Nichols said he may reconsider a ruling on a postponement.
“I see no reason for extending this case any further,” Nichols said Monday.
From the start, prosecutors have said it will take little time to present the government’s case, saying that they could wrap up their presentation in one day.
Defense attorneys, meanwhile, have suggested that their side could take two weeks, but it was immediately unclear whether that timeline had been altered by Nichols’ negative rulings.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism