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A federal judge on Thursday denied Steve Bannon’s attempt to delay his trial on criminal contempt of Congress charges stemming from the Democrat-led investigation into the incident at the U.S. Capitol 18 months ago.
Judge Carl Nichols of District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled jury selection will begin on Monday and rejected a motion from Bannon to delay it until at least mid-October.
“We’re still going to be at trial on Monday,” Nichols said.
“Bannon’s attorneys had argued in a court filing Wednesday that the large amount of publicity ahead of the trial raised the risk of prejudice against him among the jurors to be selected to hear his case. They noted that CNN is scheduled to air a one-hour documentary on Bannon on Sunday evening, the day before the trial is set to start,” CNBC reported.
Nichols on Monday had rejected a prior bid by Bannon’s lawyers to postpone the trial by three months.
The judge also denied a request from his attorneys to delay the trial after they said that they were concerned about a biased jury because of the media coverage of the January 6 committee hearings.
“While I am certainly cognizant of Mr. Bannon’s concerns regarding publicity, in my view the correct mechanism at this time for addressing that concern is through the [jury selection] process,” the judge said.
Among his decisions, Nichols ruled that Bannon could not present evidence that he had relied on past opinions from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel when he refused to appear before the Jan. 6 committee, citing executive privilege.
Nichols also ruled that Bannon could not claim “entrapment by estoppel” and argue that he thought he was acting lawfully when he ignored the committee’s subpoena due to the advice of a government official because Bannon himself was not a government employee at the time the subpoena was issued. Additionally, the judge shot down the defendant’s efforts to use the “public authority” defense because former President Donald Trump was not a government official when he told Bannon not to comply with the committee’s request.
Ultimately, Nichols narrowed the focus of Bannon’s trial down to the central question of whether the former Trump adviser deliberately and intentionally refused to appear before the Jan. 6 committee after being subpoenaed.
“What is the point of going to trial here if there are no defenses?” Bannon’s attorney David Schoen said.
“Agreed,” the judge said.
Bannon has argued that the former president’s claim of executive privilege is what stopped him from testifying, and on Sunday he said he would be willing to talk to the committee, though he would prefer a public hearing after he received a letter from the former president’s team informing him that he would waive executive privilege.
Federal prosecutors argued that the former president had “never invoked executive privilege over any particular information or materials.”
“The Defendant’s timing suggests that the only thing that has really changed since he refused to comply with the subpoena in October 2021 is that he is finally about to face the consequences of his decision to default,” U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn said. “Instead, his continued failure to comply with the subpoena’s document demand while claiming he now will testify suggests his actions are little more than an attempt to change the optics of his contempt on the eve of trial, not an actual effort at compliance.”
In June the judge refused to throw out the charges against Bannon for contempt of Congress.
Nichols rejected Bannon’s arguments that the House select committee’s subpoenas were illegal and that he was protected by the secrecy of the presidency because he had been in contact with former President Donald Trump at the end of his administration.
“The court cannot conclude as a matter of law that the committee was improperly constituted, nor that Bannon is correct to argue that the subpoena wasn’t properly cut and the indictment is invalid,” Nichols said.
Bannon has pleaded not guilty and is headed to trial on July 18, though his attorney David Schoen said Wednesday that he may seek a delay.
“The judge, as has been the case at every juncture in this matter, came in well prepared, showed his familiarity with the issues, and entered his decision as he deemed appropriate. We have preserved all of our arguments for review and respect his decision,” Schoen said in a statement. “We look forward now to preparing for trial and to defending against this case to the fullest extent the law permits.”