WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon is set to go on trial in July on criminal contempt charges over his refusal to cooperate with the congressional investigation into the U.S. Capitol riot, a judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said Tuesday a two-week trial in Washington will begin with jury selection July 18, months earlier than the October start sought by Bannon. The judge rejected what he called the government’s request for a “light speed” trial in April.
Bannon’s lawyer David Schoen had argued he needed more time to prepare a wide array of defenses, including that the grand jury that handed down the indictment was given bad instructions on the law and that the House select committee probing the Jan. 6. assault on the Capitol is biased.
Schoen said he has a right to seek evidence about the conduct of the committee because it’s led by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, who sued former President Donald Trump for allegedly conspiring with far-right groups to incite the attack. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, dropped the lawsuit in July to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
No “reasonable person living in a democracy” would support the committee being led “by a person who filed a personal lawsuit against President Trump before heading that committee,” Schoen said.
“That raises the antennae,” the lawyer said. “We have reason to question his motivation.”
Bannon was indicted in November on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying subpoenas from the House Jan. 6 select committee seeking his testimony and production of documents. The charges are misdemeanors that each carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
The judge told Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn that her proposed timetable was “extremely fast” and that he needed to give “due consideration” to Bannon’s arguments, some of which “are at a minimum unique and complicated.”
Vaughn also asked the judge to issue a protective order that would restrict how Bannon’s legal team can use documents that the government shares with it, particularly internal committee communications. The prosecutor said an order is warranted because Bannon wants to publicize the documents as part of his effort to make the case “hell” for Democrats.
“The defendant has shown he plans to disseminate the materials widely,” which would interfere with proper procedures and “expose witnesses to commentary on their testimony,” she said.
Matt Corcoran, Bannon’s other lawyer, disputed the prosecutor’s claim.
“That is not our intention at all,” he told the judge. “What we want is for the public to see how decisions were made in this case.”
Nichols said he’d issue a ruling on the protective order later.©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.