It's a Big Day for Steve Bannon

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in his rare contempt of Congress case
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 18, 2022 7:52 AM CDT
Steve Bannon's Big Court Date Is Here
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks with reporters after departing federal court on Nov. 15, 2021, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Steve Bannon's big day in court is still on track to begin Monday, though the possibility of a last-minute plea remains very much on the table. Coverage:

  • Contempt: Bannon faces rare contempt of Congress charges for failing to appear before the Jan. 6 House panel last fall despite being subpoenaed, explains NPR in its primer on the case. Jury selection is scheduled to start Monday in US District Court in DC.
  • A plea? Bannon initially pledged to turn his trial into "hell" for the Biden administration, but the judge has greatly limited the scope of what his lawyers can do. They cannot, for example, call House members to testify, notes CNN. “What’s the point of going to trial if there are no defenses?” attorney David Schoen asked Judge Carl J. Nichols at a recent hearing, per the Washington Post. "Agreed," replied the judge. The Post analysis sees that as "a lawyerly way of urging Bannon to seek a plea deal with the government, rather than face long odds at a short trial."

  • A flurry: The AP notes a flurry of developments in recent weeks. Bannon's lawyers sought to delay his trial given the publicity of the ongoing Jan. 6 hearings, but the judge rejected the idea and said their concerns could be dealt with during jury selection. Bannon also notified the Jan. 6 panel that he would be willing to testify after all, and his attorney says it was because former President Trump had waived his claim of executive privilege blocking the testimony. The judge left open the possibility that letters in regard to the latter two developments could be introduced at trial, notes NPR. Prosecutors say his belated offer to testify is irrelevant to the contempt charges.
  • Allegations: Beyond the legal maneuvering, the big picture is that the Jan. 6 panel believes Bannon was privy to planning for the Jan. 6 riot and Trump's thinking at the time, per the Guardian. In its contempt report, the panel said Bannon and Trump spoke twice on Jan. 5. “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said on his "War Room" podcast after the first call. “It’s all converging and now we’re on the point of attack tomorrow.”
  • Wiggle room: It's possible Bannon's team will argue that he did not think the panel's deadline to testify was "hard and fast," as NPR puts it. Also of note: It's not clear how relevant Trump's claim of executive privilege would be because Bannon was no longer in a government position in January 2021.
  • Penalties: Bannon faces two misdemeanors, one for his failure to testify and the other for his refusal to turn over requested documents. If convicted, each carries a minimum penalty of 30 days in jail. It's extremely rare for contempt of Congress charges to result in a trial, notes the Post, let alone jail time.
(More Steve Bannon stories.)

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