Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of Steve Bannon, a lifelong senior adviser to former President Donald Trump, who now faces contempt of Congress for failure to comply with a subpoena from a congressional committee probing January 6, 2021. Facing two cases. Capital.
Bannon was subpoenaed by the committee because investigators believe he had prior knowledge of some elements of the attack in which hundreds of Trump supporters tried to prevent Congress from authenticating Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. had tried.
Of the various former Trump officials who were asked by the committee to testify, Bannon has been the most defiant, refusing to produce documents, refusing to appear in scheduled statements and about the investigation. Combatants are making public statements. If convicted of contempt charges, he faces up to two years in prison.
Monday marked the beginning of “Wire Deer,” a process in which potential jury members face questions from lawyers on both sides to establish their ability to consider the case fairly. By the end of the day, eight potential jurors had been identified, out of a total of 12, as well as alternates, who are required for a federal criminal trial.
knowledge of attack
The January 6 committee has stated that it wants Bannon to testify because “according to several published reports and his own public statements, Stephen K. Bannon had specific information about the events on January 6th.”
On his regular podcast on January 5, Bannon warned that “everything will be over tomorrow.”
The Congressional Committee also noted that in addition to helping organize the “Stop the Steel” movement, Bannon attended a “war room” meeting at a hotel near the White House on January 5 and spoke to Trump that day.
In a contempt motion presented to the full House of Representatives, the committee wrote, “In short, Mr. Bannon has played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people deserves his first hearing- at-hand regarding his actions.” testimony of.”
claim of executive privilege
Bannon, whose official title was White House chief strategist and senior adviser to the president, served in the Trump administration in 2017, claiming his documents and testimony were protected because of his connections to the White House. Under the principle of “executive privilege”, certain communications between a president and his advisers may be kept confidential.
In a pre-trial hearing last week, US District Judge Carl J. Nichols ruled that Bannon, who left his White House job more than three years before the attack, was not entitled to claim executive privilege as a defense.
At the same hearing, Nichols, who had been appointed by Trump, rejected almost all defenses that Bannon was planning to make a lawyer, including a suggestion that the trial was unnecessary because Bannon was no longer on the committee. Willing to consider testifying.
The judge said Bannon’s only remaining defense is to claim that he somehow misunderstood the deadline to comply with the Congressional subpoena.
Nichols’ decisions resulted in a remarkable exchange between the judge and Bannon defense attorney David I. Schoen, who complained, “What’s the point of going to trial if there’s no defense?”
“Agreed,” replied the judge.
some way ahead
Noah Bookbinder, a former public corruption prosecutor and now president of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the judge’s response to Shoen pointed to the dire crisis in which Bannon finds himself.
“The judges, essentially, all asked to convict Bannon, because there’s really no way for him to be found not guilty,” the bookbinder told the VOA.
The bookbinder said it was difficult to know what a guilty plea or guilty verdict would mean for Bannon.
“There’s not a lot of precedent,” he said. “You don’t really have cases like these that go to trial very often.”
Acknowledging that Bannon’s refusal to testify may not have elevated to the level of many of the things for which people are imprisoned, Bookbinder stated that it is clearly possible that Bannon would look inside a cell if he refuses to provide evidence to the committee.
“You can imagine a case where a judge looks at it and says, ‘You know, he’s still not doing what he should have done that got him to this point,'” Buchbinder said. . “Putting him on probation would not necessarily be very effective. And therefore, a judge might send him to jail.”
Bannon, a former Navy officer with bachelor’s degrees from Georgetown and Harvard Universities, entered American politics through a winding path. After working for investment bank Goldman Sachs in the late 1980s, he launched his own investment bank in 1990 and became active in Hollywood, producing several motion pictures.
Bannon also briefly served as executive director of the Biosphere 2 project, an effort to create a closed biological system that could help research methods that would enable humans to live on other planets.
Bannon was one of the founding members of the Breitbart News, which he eventually transformed and transformed into a vehicle for the emerging “alt-right” movement in American politics. That movement overtook Trump as a candidate for president in 2016, and Bannon found himself in the inner circle of Trump’s campaign, eventually taking control of the operation in the months before the election.
In addition to being involved in Trump’s campaign, Bannon was also an executive with Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm accused of illegally using data from Facebook to influence the results of the 2016 election. was.
In 2020, Bannon was indicted on federal fraud charges in relation to We Build the Wall, an organization that claimed to collect donations that Trump promised to build between the US and Mexico.
On January 20, 2021, the day he left office, Trump officially pardoned Bannon for federal charges against him. The case was dismissed.