Merrick Garland’s Justice Department is accusing former Trump advisor Steve Bannon of lodging ‘frivolous’ legal complaints in an attempt to turn his trial for contempt into a ‘public spectacle.’
Bannon on November 17 pleaded not guilty to criminal charges that he defied a subpoena issued by a congressional panel investigating the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Bannon, the first person to face charges in connection with the House probe, handed himself in to the FBI on Monday after last week being indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress.
He claims communications with the former president are covered by ‘executive privilege’ and that the investigation is politically motivated.
Prosecutors for the DoJ accused Bannon’s defense team – led by Evan Corcoran – of stalling their efforts to reach an evidence-sharing agreement.
Steve Bannon (pictured centered), former President Donald Trump’s ex-strategist
Former White House advisor Bannon had already made clear he had no intention of complying with a subpoena to appear Thursday before the cross-party January 6 congressional select committee
Bannon is a key witness for Congressional investigators into the deadly Jan. 6 riot
Instead, according to the Justice Department, Bannon’s lawyers used a public court filing to complain about the case.
‘The defense’s misleading claims, failure to confer, unexplained wholesale opposition, and extrajudicial statements make clear the defense’s real purpose: to abuse criminal discovery to try this case in the media rather than in court,’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn wrote in the 10-page filing.
Bannon’s team has also been trying to stall the proceedings against him. His next hearing is slated for Dec. 7, as Judge Carl Nichols has pushed back on the Bannon team’s efforts.
Bannon, who remains one of Trump’s most visible and vocal propagandists, has used each twist of the case as fodder for his media machine.
On Nov. 15, he and his supporters livestreamed the moment when he arrived to turn himself in to the FBI and a day later used their podcast to suggest they are victims of a witch hunt.
Evan Corcoran, one of the lawyers who wrote a filing to the Justice Department Wednesday
Attorney General Merrick Garland, whom Bannon claims was personally told by President Biden to prosecute him
District Judge Carl Nichols set Bannon’s next hearing for Dec. 7
Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist under Trump, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to two charges of contempt of Congress
In a document submitted to U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., Bannon pleaded not guilty and waived his right to have the charges formally announced at a Thursday hearing
‘This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,’ he told a throng of reporters as he left court after his first hearing.
‘Joe Biden ordered Merrick Garland to prosecute me from the White House lawn when he got off Marine One, and we’re going to go on the offence.
‘We’re tired of playing defense.’
Bannon, 67, is one of more than 30 people close to the former president who have been ordered by the House select committee to testify about what happened in the run-up to the deadly attack.
They are keen to see whether Bannon and his associates helped orchestrate the violence, although the former Trump fixer has denied wrongdoing.
Investigators hope that their action against Bannon will spur other witnesses, such as former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, to testify.
U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a member of the Jan. 6 panel, told NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ on Sunday: ‘It will have a very strong focusing effect on their decision-making.’
Bannon’s supporters said they did not expect him to be held in custody after Monday’s hearing.
Radio host John Fredericks told his listeners shortly before Bannon handed himself in: ‘I couldn’t imagine that [the judge] is going to take him into custody as a political prisoner. Because that’s really what this is about.
‘If he didn’t have War Room, and if he didn’t have a live radio and TV talk show, which has the biggest audience in the world – bar none – this wouldn’t be happening to him.’
And Bannon’s daughter said her father was being used to distract from the failings of the Biden administration.
‘I think this is a political witch hunt,’ Maureen Bannon told the War Room.
‘I think that this regime is deflecting on crisis after crisis after crisis that’s hitting the White House.
‘So they’re going after my dad to make it seem like there’s nothing bad going on.’
It also emerged on Monday that Bannon will be represented by David Schoen, who defended Trump during his second impeachment.
Court documents filed on Monday showed that Schoen, a Boston College Law School graduate, had joined Bannon’s team.
Investigators want to know what he told former President Trump on Dec. 30 when he reportedly urged him to focus efforts on Jan. 6.
He is also believed to have been present at the Willard Hotel a day before the protests, as key Trump supporters plotted how best to prevent Congress certifying the results of the election.
‘All Hell is going to break lose tomorrow,’ he told listeners to the War Room.
For his part, Bannon and his lawyers have cited Trump’s claim that he had ‘executive privilege’ to justify his decision not to cooperate.
Bannon wore a green waxed jacket over his trademark layered shirt look
A protester held a sign accusing Bannon of being a ‘coup plotter’ as Bannon delivered his address to supporters
‘We’re taking down the Biden regime every day,’ Bannon told supporters in a livestreamed address, which he also used to promote the pro-Trump GETTR social media app and his own War Room podcast
A protester holding a ‘Clowns are not above the law’ sign arrived early for Bannon’s appearance on Monday morning
That prompted the Department of Justice to file two charges of contempt of Congress against Bannon last week – one for refusing to appear for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents in response to the subpoena.
‘Since my first day in office, I have promised Justice Department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law,’ said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement announcing the indictment.
‘Today’s charges reflect the department’s steadfast commitment to these principles.’
The charging document says Bannon did not communicate with the committee at all from the time he received the subpoena on Sept. 24 until his lawyer said he would not be cooperating, hours after a deadline expired.
If convicted, Bannon could face as little as 30 days or up to one year in prison on each count. Fines range between $100 and $1,000.
He has maintained a defiant stance throughout.
Last week, two hours before the charges were announced, he told listeners to the War Room: ‘Remember, there are no whining and no tears in the War Room.
‘We’re taking action and that action is we’re taking over school boards, we’re taking over the Republican Party through the precinct committee strategy. We’re taking over all the elections.’
Bannon’s lawyer Robert Costello previously said his client would not comply with any committee requests because Trump had directed him not to and argued that any testimony being sought was protected by executive privilege.
It is the second time Bannon has been indicted in 15 months. In August 2020 he was charged with duping thousands of donors who believed their money would help build Trump’s wall, but the former president pardoned him the night before Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Congressional investigators see getting Bannon to testify as important to their investigation into the insurrection.
However, Vaughn continued, Bannon is trying to make the trial more about the trial itself than his own innocence.
‘The misleading and frivolous nature of the defendant’s claims of prejudice demonstrate that they are just a cover for the real reason the defendant opposes a protective order in this case and which he and his counsel have expressed in their extrajudicial statements — that the defendant wishes to have trial through the press,’ Vaughn wrote.
In a Wednesday filing, Bannon’s legal team argued that the Justice Department won’t let him publicly disclose or discuss documents like letters between his attorney and the Congressional committee on the insurrection explaining why he won’t testify.
‘Mr. Bannon is entitled to a public trial,’ Corcoran wrote. ‘One aspect of a fair trial is ensuring public access to judicial proceedings and records.’
The DOJ claims Corcoran has never engaged them on modifying the agreement to permit the disclosure of such documents. They said that if he had, they would’ve accepted.
Bannon was appointed White House chief strategist when Trump took power but was out later in the year after the two fell out.
However, the two men remain in close touch.
And House investigators want to know about their conversations ahead of the Jan. 6 rally and march on Congress that exploded into violence.
He faces one contempt count for refusing to appear for a deposition before the House Select Committee and a second for refusing to produce documents.
He faces up to one year in prison along with a fine of up to $100,000 if found guilty.