Bannon's contempt of congress trial to begin in earnest

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for veteran Trump adviser Steve Bannon unsuccessfully requested a month-long stay on the second day of his criminal trial for contempt of Congress.

US District Judge Carl Nichols quickly denied that motion, and the trial was due to begin in earnest Tuesday afternoon. However, Nichols also indicated that he might be open to a one-day delay.

Bannon faces the federal charges after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol uprising.

Most of Tuesday morning’s session revolved around discussions of how much of Bannon’s communications with the Jan. 6 committee can be admitted into evidence. Nichols went through one particular letter paragraph by paragraph, with Bannon’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, warning of the legal dangers of “on-the-fly redactions” before submitting his delay request.

Bannon, an unofficial adviser to Trump at the time of the Capitol attack, is accused of defying a Jan. 6 committee subpoena seeking his records and testimony. He was indicted in November on two counts of contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received a referral from Congress. Upon conviction, each charge carries a minimum of 30 days in jail and up to a year behind bars.

Judge Nichols had previously ruled that the main elements of Bannon’s planned defense were irrelevant and could not be presented in court. Last week he ruled that Bannon could not claim that he believed he was covered by executive privilege or that he was acting on the advice of his attorneys.

Bannon’s attorney, David Schoen, hinted at his planned defense when he told the judge that Bannon believed he was in the midst of an ongoing negotiation with the January 6 committee and that he “believed the dates were malleable” as the negotiation continued. .

“Mr. Bannon believed, rightly or wrongly, that the date had been extended,” Schoen said.

Government attorneys purport to argue that there was no confusion on Bannon’s part and that his failure to appear was simply a matter of defiance and disrespect for the congressional investigation.

“On its face, the subpoena demands compliance,” said Assistant United States Attorney Amanda R. Vaughn, who said the government would test “defendant’s attempts to willfully defy the subpoena.”

Bannon, 68, had been one of the most prominent holdouts among Trump allies who refused to testify before the committee. He had argued that his testimony was protected by Trump’s executive privilege, which allows presidents to withhold sensitive information from the courts and the legislature.

Trump has repeatedly asserted executive privilege, even though he is a former president, not the current one, to try to block witness testimony and the release of White House documents. In January, the Supreme Court ruled against Trump’s efforts to bar the National Archives from cooperating with the committee after a lower court judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, noted, in part, that “presidents are not Kings”.

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