Steve Bannon who previously served as a chief strategist for former President Donald Trump is on trial on July 18th for defying a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Bannon was charged in November with two counts of contempt of Congress after failing to appear for testimony before The House January 6 committee or provide requested documents in response to a subpoena. He has pleaded not guilty.
If found guilty, Bannon faces a minimum sentence of 30 days and a maximum of one year in prison on each count. The trial continues despite two last-minute attempts by Bannon to delay it. Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, has rejected both attempts.
The outcome of this high-profile trial will be held at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., right down the street from the Capitol Building which was stormed by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. It takes place in the shadow of a series of public hearings laying out what the committee has so far uncovered. The last of those hearings, focusing on what Trump did in the attack, is scheduled for July 20th.
The committee has subpoenaed Bannon in September 2021 for testimony and documents. It suspects Bannon, 68, may be able to share useful information about the planning for Jan. 6, 2021, including what Trump’s top allies discussed at a meeting he attended at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in downtown Washington the night before.
But Bannon declined to cooperate with the panel. He did not appear on Oct. 14 to testify or turn over documents on Oct. 18 in response to the panel’s subpoena, arguing that he was covered by an assertion of executive privilege by Trump. Although he was not part of the administration at the time of the meeting.
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The House voted to hold him in contempt and referred him to the Justice Department for prosecution. Bannon was also the first of Trump’s four advisers to be held in contempt by the House and referred for prosecution.
The lawyers for Bannon made the argument last week that the trial should be postponed because the January 6 committee’s public hearings and the media attention around them would potentially taint the jury pool. Nichols, the district court judge, said that concern can be resolved during the jury selection process.
Just over a week before the trial was to begin, Bannon proposed to testify before the committee. However, he did not agree to provide the requested documents.
Prosecutors objected to the request saying it was irrelevant and had no impact on his refusal to comply with the subpoena at the time. They also attempted to exclude a letter from Trump stating that he was waiving executive privilege and a second letter from Bannon’s attorney to the January 6 committee containing Bannon’s offer of testimony.
The trial opened on July 18th with jury selection and is expected to last about a week.