A federal judge on Monday declined to delay the upcoming trial of Steve Bannon, an adviser to former President Donald Trump who faces contempt charges after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.
Bannon is still scheduled to go on trial next week despite telling the House committee late Saturday that he is now prepared to testify. It's unclear whether Bannon will again refuse to appear before the committee with the trial pending.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols also ruled against several requests by Bannon's attorneys to seek the testimony of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or the committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi. And Nichols barred Bannon's attorneys from arguing before a jury that the committee violated House rules in demanding Bannon's appearance, that Bannon defied the subpoena on the advice of his defense counsel or at Trump's order.
Nichols also said he could address during jury selection any concerns about pretrial publicity due to the committee's ongoing hearings. If it proves impossible to pick an unbiased jury, the judge said he would reconsider a delay.
The rulings led one of Bannon's attorneys, David Schoen, to speak out in frustration as he sought clarification from the judge.
"What’s the point of going to trial here if there are no defenses?” Schoen asked.
“Agreed,” Nichols responded.
Speaking to reporters outside court, Schoen said he questioned whether Bannon could effectively defend himself given Nichols’ rulings and hinted he would appeal.
“He’s the judge,” Schoen said of Nichols. “That’s why they have a court of appeals.”
The judge said earlier in the hearing that Bannon could argue he thought the deadline to respond to the subpoena may not have been “operative.”
Bannon had been one of the highest-profile Trump-allied holdouts in refusing to testify before the committee, leading to two criminal counts of contempt of Congress last year for resisting the committee’s subpoena. He has argued that his testimony is protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege. The committee contends such a claim is dubious because Trump had fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and Bannon was thus a private citizen when he was consulting with the then-president in the run-up to the riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Bannon contacted the committee over the weekend after Trump issued a letter saying he would waive any claim of executive privilege to testify before what the former president called an “unselect committee of political thugs and hacks.”
Bannon was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress. Each count carries a minimum of 30 days of jail and as long as a year behind bars.
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