Federal Prosecutors Move To Thwart Steve Bannon Attempt For New Trial

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Steve Bannon, the Trump ally recently convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, is pushing for a new trial.

On Friday, federal prosecutors filed a rebuttal to Bannon’s arguments for a new trial, insisting Bannon failed to present the sort of issue that warrants such a course of action. Among other points of the government’s argument, the filing contended relevant legal standards support the definition of willfulness used in Bannon’s trial and that a new trial isn’t the appropriate venue to resolve further arguments from Bannon about that issue. The standard of willfulness used in the proceedings is, quite simply, whether Bannon’s non-cooperation was intentional — his motive and any reasoning on which he may have relied for the actions he took weren’t key elements. Bannon’s claimed excuses for his refusals included advice from legal counsel.

In court, Bannon sought the usage of a higher standard for deliberating over whether he was guilty. The fundamental question he wanted asked was if he knowingly intended to break the law, not if he simply intended to stonewall the committee. “Both the Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit have held that “willful” as used in the contempt of Congress statute requires only that the failure to comply be deliberate and intentional, nothing more,” the new Justice Department filing says. Bannon’s contention, as summarized in that same filing, was that “willfulness, when used in a criminal statute, can never mean less than that a defendant knew his conduct was unlawful.” Another argument from Bannon’s side for a new trial is the jury wasn’t instructed in terms Bannon’s defense wanted about the notion Bannon didn’t comply with the riot panel’s original demands for testimony because of mistaken beliefs about deadline flexibility, but the jury was informed about the possibility of deadline-related confusion as a legitimate excuse.

“Defendants are not entitled to instructions in whatever form they want, and the Defendant does nothing to explain why the instruction the Court gave was insufficient to communicate his theory of the case to the jury for its consideration, as he must to sustain his burden to show he is entitled to a new trial,” the prosecution’s filing states. The doc also goes over and comprehensively dismantles other arguments from the prominent Trump ally. Bannon was originally convicted on two counts of contempt, and the statutory max per count is one year in prison. Each count has a statutory minimum of 30 days, suggesting Bannon will face jail-time if his conviction remains intact through sentencing.

In his push for a new trial, Bannon also complained that jury instructions explained the group should determine whether he failed to comply with the riot panel’s demands rather than if the longtime Trump goon “defaulted,” which is the language used in contempt-related federal law. However, there’s “no requirement in the law that jury instructions must only use statutory wording to explain the elements of the offense to the jury,” the prosecution’s court filing said. Definitions of legal terms aren’t the responsibility of the jury. At another recent point, prosecutors undercut the idea publicity associated with Bannon’s trial seriously threatened the integrity of the proceedings. That filing was prepared in anticipation of the appeals process. The doc noted that, despite concerns from Bannon about publicity, he held daily press conferences during his trial and personally promoted a CNN documentary about him.