In a new court filing following the recent conviction of Trump ally Steve Bannon on criminal contempt of Congress allegations, prosecutors seemingly undercut potential claims that publicity associated with Bannon’s trial and issues related to it threatened the integrity of the proceedings.
Arguments along these lines appear set to be dealt with in the appeals process. Prosecutors made a simple yet immensely relevant observation: despite Bannon’s side’s arguments about publicity, Bannon himself cultivated public attention around the case against him. Obviously, he wasn’t that concerned about it, considering his behavior. Bannon held press conferences outside court on every day of his trial, and he even personally promoted a CNN documentary about him that was among the examples of supposedly delay-warranting publicity pointed to by the Trump goon’s defense. More than once, Bannon tried to get his trial substantially delayed, but no such delay materialized. The contrast between Bannon’s ostensible concerns about publicity and the publicity he himself went after obtaining is remarkably glaring.
The new filing from prosecutors was replying to a filing from Bannon’s side meant to “complete the record” in anticipation of an appeal, as the government document laid it out. Referring to Bannon, prosecutors’ filing adds: “The Defendant did not, however, include in his notice any of the publicity about the Committee, the Defendant, or the trial proceedings that the Defendant himself generated in the lead up to or during trial. Accordingly, the Government files this response to the Defendant’s notice to add to the record the Defendant’s own efforts to publicize the CNN program about which the Defendant has raised claims of prejudice, see ECF No. 108 at 5-6; ECF No. 127 at 3, and to garner coverage of the Committee’s work and his trial.” The filing points to publicity examples including an episode of Bannon’s podcast, social media posts about the CNN production, and four days of daily press conferences from Bannon.
Bannon was charged and went to trial for refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot. Publicity associated with the work of that committee was one of the excuses Bannon tried to use in pushing for his trial to be delayed, although he’s never been a main focus of the panel’s public work. A high-profile public hearing of the committee featuring the testimony of former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson didn’t mention Bannon by name once. Bannon recently indicated he’d be interested in testifying to the panel after all, but he made no directly concurrent moves to comply with the committee’s demands for related documents, and the sudden willingness to testify was derided as, in part, just a publicity stunt. Bannon indicated that willingness to testify along with an assertion from Trump he’d waive executive privilege claims — but it was unclear Trump originally made such claims relevant to Bannon at all.
According to a Justice Department filing, Trump lawyer Justin Clark spoke with the department about privilege claims surrounding Bannon. “On June 29, 2022, former President Donald Trump’s attorney, who sent the letter on which the Defendant claimed his noncompliance was based, confirmed what his correspondence has already established: that the former President never invoked executive privilege over any particular information or materials; that the former President’s counsel never asked or was asked to attend the Defendant’s deposition before the Select Committee; that the Defendant’s attorney misrepresented to the Committee what the former President’s counsel had told the Defendant’s attorney; and that the former President’s counsel made clear to the Defendant’s attorney that the letter provided no basis for total noncompliance,” prosecutors said. Bannon was restricted from even bringing up executive privilege claims at trial.