Sunday, December 10

Steve Bannon’s contemplation of Congress trial will not be delayed, judge rules

Steve Bannon, former Trump White House chief strategist, declined to appear in person for a pretrial hearing in Washington, DC, Monday, in his contemplate of Congress case. His legal team suffered a series of defeats during the hearing, losing nearly every argument.

DC District Judge Carl Nichols ruled that Bannon’s trial will not be delayed, despite Bannon’s claims of potential jury bias because of the ongoing Jan. 6 House select committee hearings. His trial is still set to begin next week, on July 18.

Bannon had argued that as a former White House official, he did not have an obligation to comply with the select committee’s subpoena when executive privilege has been asserted by the president. panel subpoenaed him in September 2021 because of news reports that he had urged former President Trump to focus on Jan. 6 and had tried to coax members of Congress to vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election.

Nichols also ruled that Bannon cannot make a series of defenses at his trial, including a “public authority” argument that President Donald Trump ordered his non-compliance with the committee. The judge cited Trump’s status as a private citizen and a lack of evidence that Trump had ever made such an order.

Bannon’s argument that the House violated its own rules in its operation of Jan. 6 select committee was also dismissed by Nichols, who said he will defer to the House on its own interpretation of its rules. Nichols became the latest in a series of judges to dismiss claims the committee was not legally authorized or composed.

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Prosecutors will also need only to show deliberate intent by Bannon to defy the Jan. 6 committee’s subpoena, according to Nichols’ order. They will not need to show an “evil intent.” Bannon may not present evidence that “he relied on advice of counsel” or privilege, according to the judge. He previously sought to argue that he was heeding the advice of his lawyers and did not know he was committing a crime by failing to appear before the committee or providing material in response to the subpoena.

Bannon may still argue that he was “unaware” of subpoena deadline date, however.

Nichols did not immediately rule on the relevance or admissibility of Bannon’s new offer to testify before the House panel. But the Justice Department cast doubt on Bannon’s newfound willingness to testify before the select committee, calling his about-face on cooperating with the panel an “attempt to change the optics” days before his trial on charges of criminal contempt of Congress begins.

On Thursday, the next pretrial hearing in Bannon’s case will take up that issue.

After the hearing, Bannon’s lawyer, David Schoen, said he didn’t know whether Bannon would testify before the Jan. 6 committee, but he did reiterate that Bannon “said he’s willing to comply if they just resolve the privilege issue,” and he noted that “now, the privilege has been waived, withdrawn.”

Cristina Corujo contributed to this report.

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