The proceedings began Monday with jury selection at the federal courthouse in Washington, DC. Twenty-two potential judges have been found and the 12 who make up the jury and two alternates will be selected on Tuesday morning. The opening arguments will begin shortly after.
The long-time polarizing Trump ally has always topped the January 6 testimonial list for House investigators. But Justice Department prosecutors say the trial is aimed at punishing Bannon for failing to comply with the subpoenas, rather than forcing him to share information.
The case is an important test of Congressional influence when a witness evades a House subpoena. Bannon’s is the first of two similar subpoena cases from the House’s select committee to go to trial; a contempt case against former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is still in its early stages.
Bannon’s trial is also of particular interest to the House panel as it continues to negotiate to bring in additional witnesses, and as it prepares for a major prime-time hearing Thursday night designed to draw attention to what committee members are saying. Former President Donald Trump’s “dereliction of duty” in January 6.
Judges asked about home research
During Monday’s jury selection process, potential jurors were not pressured about their general feelings about Bannon or Trump.
They were, however, asked about their news consumption from the parliamentary investigation and about this case itself. Some said they’ve consumed a bit of the House hearings, if so.
Many of the potential jurors said they heard minimal about Bannon’s case, but a good number of them attended at least some public hearings of the selected committee. But awareness alone isn’t enough to knock them out of the jury pool.
Among the jurors who qualified for the 22, there is a man who works with Covid-19 testing, a woman who retired from a union who is now writing a dissertation and a self-proclaimed “recovery” lawyer now with the ministry of Foreign Affairs works .
The lawyer-turned-government official told the judge she thought administrative law could be part of the case, and that the case was about whether Bannon should testify or be protected.
It’s not clear if Bannon’s legal team will be able to present arguments that even mention administrative law before the jury. The judge, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, allowed her to remain a potential juror because her knowledge of the case was limited.
Bannon’s team has repeatedly argued that publicity ahead of the trial, especially with congressional hearings, should at least delay his case.
But many potential jurors said they have not formed an opinion or know little about the details and have not been extensively questioned about Bannon’s political history.
A potential juror said she had “high-level knowledge” of the selected committee’s proceedings and the case, and learned that not everyone had responded to subpoenas they received — even if they should have. But “we haven’t heard the whole story yet,” the legal counsel told the judge. “I assume you have to explain the law to us.”
She stayed in the jury pool.
Another potential juror was thrown out of the pool after telling the judge that he had watched all the selected committee hearings, then criticized Republicans for saying the election was stolen, and as he watched Bannon say, “I believe really that he is guilty.”
Trial period expected to go soon
Prosecutors promise that their case against Bannon will be presented succinctly, in just a few days, with only two or three witnesses to the prosecution. That list includes House Committee investigators.
It is not known how extensive Bannon’s defense will be, or whether he will take the stand in defense of his own defense. He will not be able to force House members to testify, the judge said.
Early in the case, Bannon vowed to make the proceedings a “crime from hell for (Attorney General) Merrick Garland, (Chairman) Nancy Pelosi and (President) Joe Biden.” But at a recent court hearing, his attorney David Schoen complained, “What’s the point of appearing here in court if there’s no defense?”
Bannon — who accepted an 11-hour pardon from Trump in 2021 because he faced conspiracy fraud and money laundering charges in Manhattan federal court in connection with a border wall fundraiser — has made a series of attempts in court over the past few days to reverse the process. stop, form more defenses, or prepare for possible appeal.
So far, Nichols has overwhelmingly sided with the Justice Department over the evidence the jury can hear, leaving Bannon unable to attempt to defer his attorney’s advice or use internal DOJ policies for presidential advisers whose he hoped they would protect him.
In recent weeks, Trump indicated he wanted to waive any executive privilege that may have applied to Bannon, and Bannon suggested he might be interested in talking to the House committee — a series of events that Bannon’s team now wants to show to the jury. But his ability to make arguments about administrative law will be severely limited at best. Bannon was not a government official during the period the commission is investigating.
A federal grand jury indicted the right-wing figure in November on two charges of criminal contempt — one for his failure to give testimony demanded in the fall by the subpoena of the House select committee and the other for his failure to produce documents. A key issue at trial will be whether the jury agrees with prosecutors and the House that Bannon’s October subpoenas deadlines were final and that he deliberately ignored them.
Both charges he faces are misdemeanors. But if found guilty, each has a mandatory minimum of 30 days in prison.
Bannon was one of the first potential January 6 witnesses to be subpoenaed by the House committee — and he is one of the few people the committee despised. The commission said it wanted to obtain his documents and ask him questions because Bannon was in contact with Trump, was in the so-called war room of Trump allies at the Willard hotel in Washington as the riots unfolded, and made a prediction on his podcast. before the riot that “hell” was “going to break loose”.
“In summary, Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people have a right to hear his testimony firsthand about his actions,” the House committee said in its report. put forward a contempt resolution against Bannon.
When Bannon faced deadlines in October, his attorney Robert Costello told the committee that Bannon would not cooperate with the investigation due to instructions from Trump saying that he should “invoke any immunities and privileges that may be granted, if applicable.” he has.”
Since then, detectives have interviewed Costello, as well as a Trump attorney, Justin Clark, as they build their case. According to their description of Clark’s statements, he told Costello that Trump could not protect Bannon from total non-compliance with the subpoenas.
Prior to Bannon’s trial, the House committee provided details about him in some of its public presentations. At a hearing last Tuesday, the White House committee revealed phone logs showing that Bannon and Trump spoke twice on Jan. 5, 2021, including once before Bannon made his predictions about the next day on the podcast.
The committee has scheduled another hearing on Thursday evening. Depending on the pace of proceedings at the DC federal courthouse and the length of his defense presentation and jury deliberations, Bannon’s trial could be over by then.
This story has been updated with additional details.