Justice Dept Counters Steve Bannon Attempt To Avoid Contempt Charges

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Trump ally Steve Bannon requested last month that the criminal case against him for contempt of Congress be dismissed, and as proceedings in Bannon’s case move forward, federal prosecutors have filed an expected rebuttal to Bannon’s arguments. Bannon’s “strategy in this case is to hide his contempt of Congress behind executive privilege and legal claims that have nothing to do with the facts and circumstances of his independent decision to defy the Committee’s subpoena,” prosecutors argued in their response seeking the dismissal of Bannon’s request.

The contempt of Congress case against Bannon relates to his refusal to comply with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, which has already heard from hundreds upon hundreds of individuals including people close to Trump, like his daughter Ivanka — who seems to have given the committee at least somewhat more than repeated privilege claims. In Bannon’s case, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols already ruled in favor of a request from the Justice Department to disallow Bannon’s side from using the defense at his upcoming trial that he was simply following his attorney’s advice in refusing to comply with the committee. Nichols observed that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals “expressly held that an advice-of-counsel defense is unavailable for that charge” of contempt of Congress. Bannon’s trial is slated for July; if found guilty of both contempt charges he’s facing, he could seemingly face up to two years in prison (including one for each charge), although he’d seemingly likely end up with less than that.

In his original request last month for the criminal case against him to be dismissed, Bannon “said the congressional subpoena he received was invalid because of the makeup” of the committee, CNN notes. Just recently, amid a legal dispute involving the Republican National Committee and the riot panel over a subpoena from the latter to an email vendor Republicans used, federal Judge Timothy Kelly concluded, however, that the committee is legitimate. “[T]he House views the Select Committee to be duly constituted and empowered to act… even though the Select Committee has only nine members… This understanding is reflected by the House’s adoption of the Select Committee’s recommendations to find witnesses in contempt of Congress for their refusals to comply with Select Committee subpoenas,” Kelly concluded. Kelly delayed the implementation of his ruling regarding that subpoena to allow for an appeal.

In separate but related matters, federal prosecutors have now obtained four convictions on all counts for Capitol rioters who’ve gone to trial-by-jury, meaning every jury trial for a Capitol rioter that’s so far taken place has ended the same way. None of these convicted defendants have been sentenced yet. The last to be convicted, former New York City cop Thomas Webster, was convicted of five felonies after getting caught assaulting an officer participating in the Capitol defense. Webster claimed to have been acting in self-defense, although the officer made just brief physical contact with him before the defendant tackled him.