As Trump goon Steve Bannon’s trial on contempt of Congress charges got rolling this week, federal Judge Carl Nichols denied another request by Bannon’s side to delay the trial. This time, Bannon’s defense pushed for a one-month delay; they’d previously hoped to delay things until October.
The latest push from Bannon’s side for a delay unfolded alongside disputes over arguments they could make at trial, along with perceptible confusion over evidence that could be brought. In short, Bannon’s team seemed to be trying to use an incompetence defense, though they obviously didn’t employ that terminology. Nichols asserted prior rulings of his on the scope of the trial allowed Bannon to argue he didn’t intend to fail to comply with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, which led to his charges. Bannon’s side could’ve argued for that lack of intention using potential evidence including that he supposedly misunderstood the deadline for compliance with the panel, Nichols outlined.
Nichols previously blocked Bannon’s side from using executive privilege arguments or claims based on certain internal Justice Department opinions allegedly offering the ex-Trump adviser a defense. If he intentionally refused to comply, accompanying arguments for why he did so were apparently deemed irrelevant. “There are a lot of moving pieces,” Bannon’s lawyer M. Evan Corcoran remarked of Nichols’s explanation of the trial parameters. He claimed a misunderstanding in Bannon’s corner regarding what could be argued. “We simply have not done the type of defense preparation we would have,” Corcoran said.
There were other disputes in court over correspondence involving Bannon and the riot panel. Apparently, Bannon’s defense previously sought the exclusion of certain communications from the committee that related to the subpoena with which Bannon refused to comply. Nichols, however, opted to allow the letters with partial redactions — but there were arguments between the defense and government over the level of redactions to impose. Early Tuesday, Nichols “said he [was] weighing pushing the start of the trial back one more day while lawyers on both sides wrestle with how much, if at all, to redact correspondence between Bannon and the Jan. 6 legislative committee,” The Washington Post reported. The judge was slated to swiftly decide on that scheduling matter.
Other defenses for Bannon previously excluded by Nichols include the notion he relied on advice from a lawyer in refusing to comply with the committee. Bannon’s defense apparently brought its push to use executive privilege arguments back up on Tuesday, although the judge already once dismissed the possibility of using what would seem to be those very claims. It’s not even clear Trump ever claimed executive privilege over Bannon’s prospective testimony to the riot committee. Trump lawyer Justin Clark informed the Justice Department Trump never made specific executive privilege claims in this context, according to the department. Potential redactions for communications between Bannon’s side and the riot committee used in the course of Bannon’s trial covered references to executive privilege. If convicted, Bannon could face jail-time.
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