Bannon Contempt Trial to Begin July 18; DOJ Will Seek to Thwart Defense Strategy


The Department of Justice will try to block Steve Bannon from using his lawyer’s advice as a defense in his upcoming trial for contempt of Congress.

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the trial will begin July 18, The Hill reported.

Lawyers advised Bannon, a senior adviser to then-President Donald Trump, not to appear before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s partisan committee investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“The Government anticipates filing a motion … to exclude evidence and argument relating to any advice of counsel on the basis that it is not a defense to the pending charges,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn said in a status report filed late Monday.

The report did not include an explanation as to why prosecutors don’t think relying on his attorney’s advice is a defense for Bannon, who’s charged with “willfully” defying subpoenas for his testimony and records.

Prosecutors say Bannon failed to respond to the committee’s September subpoena until after the deadline to testify, and when he did, refused to honor it.

Attorney Robert Costello said Bannon was always willing to cooperate if a court ordered him to do so. Short of that, he would defer to Trump’s instruction that his top allies refuse to cooperate with congressional investigators, Politico reported.

Trump says his conversations with aides are protected by executive privilege.

During a pretrial hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols announced a trial start date that fell between the requests of the two sides.

The DOJ had said its entire case against Bannon could be argued in a single day, and asked for that day to be April 15.

Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran had said the trial could take 10 days and should begin in October.

“The average life of a criminal case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is about a year,” Corcoran wrote in the report. “In our view, this is not the average criminal case on the docket.”

The DOJ and Bannon’s legal team disagree on many items surrounding the trial — such as the timing, and the scope of the evidence.

Prosecutors say the case against Bannon simply involves correspondence between Bannon, his attorney, and the Jan. 6 panel. Corcoran, though, expressed the need for a complex investigation that includes access to many government documents.

The Justice Department indicted Bannon two weeks after the House held Bannon in contempt of Congress in October.