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Trial expected to begin against ex-Trump adviser Steve Bannon

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Jury selection is set for Monday in the trial of Steve Bannon, a one-time adviser to former President Donald Trump, who faces criminal contempt for Congress’ charges after months of refusing to cooperate with the House Committee investigation into the January 6, 2021 Capitol uprising.

Bannon faces charges in Washington federal court for defying a Jan. 6 subpoena from the commission seeking his records and testimony. He was indicted in November on two charges of criminal contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received a referral from Congress. Each count entails a minimum of 30 days in prison and as long as one year behind bars.

The trial follows a wave of activity in the case since July 9. More than a week ago, the former White House strategist informed the committee that he is now willing to testify.. His attorney, Robert Costello, said the change was because Trump has waived his claim to executive privilege to avoid the testimony.

Bannon, 68, had been one of the most prominent of the Trump-allied holdouts in refusing to testify before the committee. He has argued that his testimony is protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege.

Trump has repeatedly exercised the privilege of the executive — even as a former president — to try to block witness statements and the release of White House documents. The Supreme Court ruled in January: against Trump’s attempts to prevent the National Archives from cooperating with the commission after a lower court judge partially noted, “Presidents are not kings.”

The committee also noted that Trump fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and thus Bannon was a private individual when he consulted with the then president ahead of the riots.

US District Judge Carl Nichols rejected requests to postpone the trial in separate hearings last week, including Thursday, when Bannon’s attorneys raised concerns about a CNN report that has since aired about their client and what they believe were adverse comments made last week during a hearing held last week by the committee of the House investigating the riots.

“I am aware of the current concerns about publicity and bias and whether we can place a jury that will be appropriate and fair, but as I said before, I believe the right path is to go through the voir dire process ,” said Nichols Thursday, referring to the questioning of individual judges before they are selected. The judge said he plans to get a jury that will be “appropriate, fair and unbiased”.

While the judge allowed the trial to go ahead, Nichols left open the possibility that the letters about Trump relinquishing his privilege and Bannon’s offer to work with the commission could be referred during the trial, saying the information ” at least potentially relevant” was to Bannon’s defense.

Roscoe Howard Jr., the former US attorney in Washington, DC, said Bannon is the best case if the information about his collaboration offer gets to the jury. Even if so, it will be a difficult argument to argue that administrative law prevented him from cooperating earlier because Bannon refused to answer the subpoena, Howard said.

“You have to show up to invoke the privilege claim. You can’t call it,” he said.

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