Trial begins for ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress case

WASHINGTON — Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of Steve Bannon, a former aide to former President Donald Trump who faces criminal contempt for congressional charges after months of refusing to cooperate with the House committee, investigating January 6th. 2021, Uprising in the Capitol.

Bannon faces charges in federal court in Washington for defying a Jan. 6 subpoena from the committee demanding his records and testimony. He was indicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress in November, a month after the Justice Department received a referral from Congress. Each count carries a minimum of 30 days in prison and up to a year behind bars.

The trial follows brisk activity in the case since July 9. Over a week ago, the former White House strategist told the committee he was now ready to testify. His former attorney, Robert Costello, said the change was because Trump waived his right to executive privilege to prevent testifying.

Bannon, 68, was one of the most prominent Trump allies who declined to testify before the committee. He has argued that his testimony is protected by Trump’s right to executive privilege, which allows presidents to withhold confidential information from courts and the executive branch.

Trump has repeatedly invoked executive privileges – despite being a former president – to try to block testimony and the release of White House documents. The Supreme Court in January ruled against Trump’s efforts to stop the National Archives from collaborating with the committee after a lower court judge — Ketanji Brown Jackson, now on the Supreme Court — found in part, “Presidents are not kings.”

The committee also found that Trump fired Bannon from the White House in 2017, making Bannon a private citizen when he consulted with the then-president ahead of the riots.

US District Judge Carl Nichols denied requests to postpone the trial in separate hearings last week, including on Thursday when Bannon’s attorneys raised concerns about a CNN report that has since aired about their client, and what they described as adverse comments, held during a hearing last week by the House of Representatives committee investigating the riot.

“I am aware of the current concerns about publicity and bias and whether we can appoint a jury, which will be reasonable and fair, but as I said before, I believe the appropriate way is to have the voir dire process,” Nichols said Thursday, referring to the questioning of individual jurors prior to their selection. The judge said he intends to form a jury that will be “reasonable, fair and unbiased.”

While the judge allowed the trial, Nichols left open the possibility that reference could be made to the letters about Trump’s waiver of his privilege and Bannon’s offer to cooperate with the committee in the trial, saying the information was “at least potentially relevant” to Bannon’s Defense.

Roscoe Howard Jr., the former US Attorney in Washington, DC, said the best case for Bannon is when information about his offer of cooperation gets to the jury. Even if that’s the case, the claim that he was previously stopped from collaborating will be hard to argue because Bannon has declined to respond to the subpoena, Howard said.

“You have to show up to claim the privilege. You can’t call him,” he said.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Trial begins for ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress case

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