Steve Bannon’s criminal contempt trial to begin | american politics

A federal criminal trial is set to begin on Monday to determine whether Steve Bannon, the influential former adviser to Donald Trump, broke the law by refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents and testimony from the panel investigating the attack on the January 6 against the Capitol.

Last fall, the congressional committee investigating the deadly Capitol riots subpoena Bannon to sit for a deposition and to provide a wide range of documents related to the events of January 6. Bannon refused to comply. The committee cited him for contempt and referred him to the US Department of Justice for prosecution in October last year.

The Justice Department pursued the removal, and a federal grand jury indicted Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress, both misdemeanors, in November. It is extremely rare for the Justice Department to pursue such charges – before Bannon, the last contempt prosecution was in 1983. Bannon faces between 30 days and a year in prison if convicted on each charge.

Bannon, whom Trump fired from the White House in August 2017, has become a powerful conservative voice since leaving the White House, and his podcast, War Room, has become a staple for those on the political right. He used to fuel baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and began to explain how Trump might try to cancel the election starting in September 2020.

Days in advance, Bannon predicted that Trump would declare himself the winner on election night and take advantage of the resulting confusion as Democrats tally the votes due to mail-in ballots being counted after in-person votes. Trump ended up doing just that.

The committee said in its contempt report that Bannon appeared to have “some prescience” of what would happen on January 6. He also said that Bannon and Trump spoke twice on January 5. “Hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said on a podcast after the first call. “Everything is converging and now we are on the verge of attacking tomorrow.”

Prior to the attack, Bannon was also present at the Willard Hotel, the hub of Trump’s legal efforts to nullify the 2020 election.

Bannon is the first former Trump administration official to face a criminal trial for refusing to participate in the Jan. 6 investigation. From the moment he was charged, he vowed to fight the charges, recently saying on his podcast that he was going “medieval” and “would save his enemies”. But Bannon suffered a number of pretrial defeats as Trump-appointed U.S. District Court Judge Carl J Nichols blocked many of Bannon’s key defenses.

“What’s the point of going to court if you don’t have a defense?” David Schoen, one of Bannon’s attorneys, said in a recent hearing. Nichols simply responded by saying “okay”.

Nichols’ ruling stripped Bannon of some of his key defenses, including that he relied on his attorney’s advice when he defied the subpoena. Bannon’s lawyers also claimed that Trump invoked executive privilege to shield Bannon from compliance, but it’s unclear whether Trump did so and whether or not a former president has the authority to grant. such protection to someone who is not part of the government. Trump’s attorney, Justin Clark, told Bannon’s attorney in a letter that he doesn’t believe Bannon is immune from testifying.

After the rulings, the only defenses that seem to remain for Bannon are that he could have somehow misunderstood the time limit to respond to the subpoena, and that he didn’t think he challenged the subpoena. because the select committee had told him in a letter after the deadline that they hoped he could still cooperate with the investigation.

Bannon maneuvered to try to delay the trial, citing the publicity of the committee’s public hearings and recently offering to testify before the panel. Prosecutors argued the move was an attempt to postpone the trial. Bannon had also tried to call prominent Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as witnesses in his case, but Nichols’ rulings appear to make it difficult for him.

Government prosecutors said they would only need a day to plead their case. Bannon’s attorneys said their defense could take weeks.

Federal prosecutors are also pursuing contempt charges against Peter Navarro, another former Trump administration official. Like Bannon, Navarro pleaded not guilty.

Hugo Lowell contributed to this report


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