Facing a lawsuit, Bannon swears to go “medieval”, but the judge says I’m

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Former Trump adviser and right-wing podcaster Stephen K. Bannon has promised the contempt of Congress charges against him will become a “hellish offense” for the Biden administration, but after court rulings against his proposed defense, legal experts said his trial was due to start on Monday. could be more of a quick trip through court.

In a recent hearing that left Bannon’s legal strategy in tatters, his attorney David Schoen asked U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Nichols, “what’s the point of going to court if there’s no tusks?” The judge simply replied, “Okay.”

The exchange was a remarkable run for Bannon’s combative and bombastic team who live-streamed his statement, “we’re taking down the Biden regime” as he surrendered to the FBI in late 2021 for illegally flouting the committee of the Chamber investigating Jan 6.

The judge’s response was a legal way to urge Bannon to seek a plea deal with the government, rather than face long odds at a short trial, said Randall Eliason, a law professor at the University. George Washington and former federal prosecutor.

“Obviously everyone has a right to a trial, but usually if you go to trial there’s some sort of legal or factual dispute that needs to be resolved,” Eliason said. “The judge’s point is that there really isn’t one here… In these cases, going to trial becomes what prosecutors sometimes call a lengthy guilty plea.”

Judge Bannon shreds his proposed defenses

Bannon’s case, while highly publicized and politically significant, is a legal rarity. Over the past four decades — even when Congress has referred such a case of alleged contempt of Congress to the Justice Department for prosecution — they have rarely been charged, and those that have led to convictions or pleas have been cancelled. But that lawsuit comes amid heavily watched televised hearings of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — the panel Bannon declined to speak to or provide documents to, which has led to his criminal charges.

Bannon is one of two former Trump aides to face criminal charges for pushing back against the committee, along with former White House trade adviser Peter K. Navarro. On the same day Navarro was indicted in June, the Justice Department revealed it would not indict former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and communications chief Daniel Scavino Jr. .

Unlike Bannon and Navarro, Meadows and Scavino engaged in months of talks with the committee about the terms and limits of potential testimony and executive privilege claims. Meadows also handed over thousands of text messages and communications with members of Congress and other White House aides before ending negotiations and withdrawing his appearance for deposition. And unlike the other three men, Bannon left the Trump White House in 2017 and was a private citizen at the time of the 2020 election and subsequent presidential transition.

Bannon’s lawyers have argued that former President Donald Trump invoked executive privilege to shield the conversations from the congressional investigation – but the judge in his case noted that he was not at all clear that Trump had claimed privilege. Even if he did, it is unclear whether a former president, rather than a current president, could claim the privilege, or how such a claim might apply to Bannon, who was out of government. for years at the time in question.

In past cases involving information battles between executive branch officials and Congress, claims of executive privilege are as much a bargaining position as a legal principle – a way of negotiating the limits of what is handed over to the Congress. In Bannon’s case, however, there was little or no negotiation, and the judge warned his lawyers that the only potential defense to the contempt charge is whether he knowingly missed or simply misunderstood. the deadline set for responding to the panel’s requests.

The judge noted that before Bannon was charged, Trump’s attorney had asked him to cite any immunity or privilege with the committee “if any” — not that Bannon could simply refuse to answer every question or provide a document. Nichols also cited a letter from Trump’s attorney, Justin Clark, to Bannon’s attorney, stating that he “has not indicated that we believe there is testimonial immunity for your client. As I indicated to you the other day, we don’t believe there is.

Jury selection in the case is due to begin on Monday, and the trial is likely to be brief – prosecutors say their case will take a day, and given the judge’s limits on which witnesses Bannon can call and the questions he can raise, it’s unclear how long Bannon’s case may take, or whether he will testify.

Official Says Secret Service Removed Jan. 6 Texts; agency dispute account

In issuing a subpoena to Bannon, the committee said it wanted to question him about activities at the Willard Hotel the day before the riot, when Trump supporters sought to persuade Republican lawmakers to overturn the results 2020 elections. The committee said Bannon spoke with Trump by phone that morning and evening, the last time after Bannon predicted “all hell would break loose” on Jan. 6, and the committee’s report recommending he be found in contempt said the comments indicated he “had some foreknowledge of the extreme events that would occur the next day.

But accusing Bannon and bringing him to justice greatly diminishes the chances that he will provide evidence to the committee.

“Apart from having the satisfaction of getting a conviction, there really isn’t an enforcement element to the case, and that seriously complicates any attempt to use him as a witness,” Stanley Brand said. , a former House attorney who represented Scavino in his dealings with the Committee. “Any law lesson can come much later with any appeal.”

If convicted, Bannon’s potential punishment is unclear. The two misdemeanor contempt charges each carry at least 30 days and up to a year in prison. Court records show that the three similar contempt of Congress cases that have been indicted in DC federal court since 1990 have all resulted in guilty pleas, but none of those people have been jailed as part of plea agreements with prosecutors. Two were pardoned by a chairman of their party and the third was allowed to withdraw his plea and admit a lesser charge amid a sentencing mix-up by prosecutors.

Bannon, however, is a different type of accused than these former government officials.

A former media executive who bragged about creating a “platform for the alt-right,” Bannon has championed a “populist-nationalist” movement since serving as Trump’s campaign chair for part of 2016. While he denied responsibility for the Jan. 6 riot by Trump supporters, he saw himself as an ideological architect of efforts to overthrow the Jan. 6 election and Trump rally.

Bannon’s podcast launched on YouTube after Jan. 6, but remains one of the most popular in the country on Apple’s platform, with over 200 million total downloads. In September 2020, Bannon began explaining how Trump could claim voter fraud and send the result back to the House of Representatives, and went on to predict that Trump should simply declare victory regardless of the results on November 3 before promoting the result. unsubstantiated idea that the election was stolen in more than 120 podcast episodes until January 6th.

The doomsday denunciations continued as Bannon unsuccessfully requested a postponement of his trial and this month offered to speak to the committee at a time and place of his choosing. Prosecutors called the effort a ploy to avoid accountability that showed further disregard for the court and the government by wasting their time and that of Congress. The committee said it would not negotiate until Bannon first produced the subpoenaed documents.

“Pray for our enemies, because we are going medieval with these people. We will brutalize our enemies,” Bannon said in a podcast ahead of the trial, adding, “Who needs prayers? Certainly not Stephen K. Bannon.

Prosecutors had warned that the legal defenses Bannon wanted, such as calling prominent Democrats as witnesses, would have turned the trial into a “circus,” and the judge’s rulings appear to have cut off many opportunities to do so.

But Bannon has shown he is more than happy to try to make his case outside the courthouse as well as inside.

Eliason, the law professor, said one possible reason for Bannon to fight through a lengthy trial is to preserve his appeal rights. But the pugilist podcaster may have other motivations.

“Maybe it’s just a show for him, one where he can play the MAGA martyr and use that to raise his profile,” Eliason said. “It’s not a legal reason to go to trial, but it may be reason enough for him.”

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