Thursday, December 08, 2022

Jury selection begins for contempt of congressional trial of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon

WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of Steve Bannon, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump who faces criminal contempt of Congress charges after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee. investigating the events of January 10. 6, 2021, Capitol uprising.

Bannon is charged in Washington federal court with 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. Each charge carries a minimum of 30 days in jail and up to a year behind bars.

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The trial follows a flurry of activity in the case since July 9. More than a week ago, the former White House strategist notified the committee that he is now willing to testify. His former attorney, Robert Costello, said the change was because Trump gave up his executive privilege to prevent testimony.

Bannon, 68, had been one of the most prominent of Trump’s allies in refusing to testify before the committee. He has argued that his testimony is protected by Trump’s executive privilege, which allows presidents to hide sensitive information from the courts and the executive branch.

Trump has repeatedly asserted executive privilege, even though he is a former president, 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 trial judge, Ketanji Brown Jackson, now on the Supreme Court, noted, in part, that ” presidents are not kings.”

The committee also noted that Trump fired Bannon from the White House in 2017, and thus Bannon was a private citizen when consulting with the then-president in the run-up to the riots.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols rejected motions to delay the trial in separate hearings last week, including Thursday, when Bannon’s attorneys raised concerns about a Nation World News report that has since aired about their client and what they said. They were damaging comments made during a hearing last week by the House committee investigating the riot.

“I am aware of the ongoing concerns about publicity and bias and whether we can put together a jury that is proper and fair, but as I said before, I think the proper course is to go through the voir dire process,” Nichols said. Thursday, referring to the questioning of jurors before they were selected. The judge said he intended to get a jury that “is going to be proper, fair and impartial.”

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

Roscoe Howard Jr., a former federal prosecutor in Washington, DC, said Bannon’s best case is if information about his offer to cooperate reaches the jury. Even if he does, claiming that executive privilege prevented him from cooperating earlier will be a difficult argument because Bannon refused to respond to the subpoena, Howard said.

“You have to show up to invoke the claim of privilege. You can’t call on the phone,” she said.

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