Federal Judge Rules Against Steve Bannon As Law Closes In

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Steve Bannon doesn’t seem to be having a great time as his trial on contempt of Congress charges quickly approaches.

On Monday, federal Judge Carl Nichols ruled on an array of lingering matters in the case. His first ruling was in favor of the Justice Department. “Prosecutors only need to prove Bannon acted “deliberately” and “intentionally” to defy the select committee — not that he knew it was illegal or wrong,” the judge concluded, as reporter Kyle Cheney summarizes. The judge also metaphorically shot down attempts to use ostensible claims of executive privilege on former President Trump’s part in Bannon’s defense. Bannon has tied his initial refusal to cooperate with the House riot investigation committee, which led to the charges, to supposed privilege claims from Trump.

“Nichols says Bannon cannot present evidence that he relied on internal DOJ opinions or assertions of executive privilege. Neither speaks to Bannon’s deliberate decision not to comply with the select committee’s subpoena,” as Cheney recapped Monday afternoon. “This is a huge blow to Bannon’s defense — it essentially cuts off his primary arguments that he claimed justified his decision not to appear. He’s left with very little else in his defense.” Some of the only available defenses for Bannon at his trial are that he misunderstood the deadline for his compliance with the riot committee’s original subpoena for him or harbored a good-faith belief that deadline had been extended, Cheney observes. It’s unclear whether he could convince a jury of either potential argument.

Nichols, among other slap-downs, also ruled that arguments from the Trump goon against the legitimacy of the riot panel mostly can’t be brought up at trial. The hits for Bannon’s defense just kept coming on Monday: the judge also denied a motion from Bannon to obtain materials from the Justice Department related to prosecutors’ decisions against charging former Trump aides Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino for contempt of Congress although they were referred, just like Bannon, by the full House for prosecution by the Justice Department. Bannon was also blocked from subpoenaing Nancy Pelosi or members of the riot committee.

In the final ruling from Monday on an outstanding matter related to Bannon’s trial, Nichols denied the longtime Trump ally’s attempt to delay his trial until October. Bannon’s side raised a variety of arguments in favor of the effort to push back the trial, from the notion that publicity associated with recent public hearings of the riot committee could unfairly impact the jury pool — even though Bannon isn’t a main focus of the proceedings — to concerns about motions related to the case with which the court had yet to deal. Nichols concluded the jury selection process would provide a sufficient opportunity to deal with potential prejudice among possible jurors for the trial. Bannon also raised complaints about connections between a prosecutor and a planned government witness who works for the riot committee — although it’s been more than a decade since the two worked together, and it’s been almost two years since the prosecutor attended a social club where the panel staffer also attended. Read coverage of Monday’s developments from Cheney at this link.