Federal Judge Thwarts Steve Bannon Attempt To Evade Justice

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This week, federal Judge Carl Nichols denied a request by longtime Trump ally Steve Bannon for the dismissal of the contempt of Congress case against him.

Bannon was convicted by a jury of two counts of contempt of Congress after he initially completely refused to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Capitol riot. Bannon also filed a request for a new trial, apparently providing himself with a back-up plan, and Nichols, a Trump appointee, denied that effort as well. Bannon “also argues that the Court erred by not including his defense theory in the jury instructions,” Nichols wrote in the context of Bannon’s push for a new trial. “But Defendant cites no authority demonstrating why that was an error. Defendant also appears to take issue with the Court’s having defined the meaning of the criminal statute for the jury. But that is precisely the Court’s role.” (Citations are omitted.) Nichols concluded that issues cited by Bannon’s defense simply didn’t demonstrate the kind of serious miscarriage of justice warranting a new trial.

Bannon’s side argued in presenting the motion to dismiss the case that the court blocking Bannon from calling certain members of Congress for testimony violated his Constitutional rights. In response, Nichols observed that Bannon didn’t demonstrate how failing to obtain testimony from members of Congress substantively undercut his ability to defend himself in court to the point of showing the testimony was “material,” meaning critical in the case. Rather than singling out expected testimony, Bannon’s arguments largely focused on proposed questions for members of Congress, and the judge even undercut the presented questions. Bannon “argues that he would have sought to elicit testimony from Committee members about why they believed that Defendant’s testimony would be pertinent or important to the Committee’s inquiry.” Discussing certain questions proposed by Bannon’s side in supposed support of that end, the judge added as follows: “The Court fails to see how those questions would have elicited any evidence going to pertinency.”

In other words, the questions weren’t an effective basis for making the claims about the supposed necessity of testimony from members of Congress, and the questions themselves didn’t even make the additional points Bannon wanted, per Nichols. On other arguments, the judge calls Bannon’s claims legally underdeveloped. Bannon, who is one of two Trump allies who faced contempt of Congress charges in connection to refusing to cooperate with the riot committee, is scheduled for sentencing in late October. He could face jail-time.