Judge Rules Steve Bannon Cannot Argue He Was Relying on Legal Advice in Defying Jan. 6 Subpoena
Steve Bannon suffered a setback ahead of his criminal trial when a judge on Wednesday ordered that he could not tell jurors he relied on advice from lawyers when he defied a subpoena to answer questions about the January 6 violence before Congress.
He was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide documents and testimony to lawmakers investigating the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.
Like several other Trump allies, he said he was bound by the principle of executive privilege.
Bannon’s lawyers argued in a February filing that he had acted in good faith, based on the advice of veteran defense attorney Robert Costello, that he could not give evidence unless the Jan. 6 committee brokered a deal with Trump or convinced a federal court to agree to waive executive privilege.
‘The government alleges that Mr. Bannon committed a crime,’ his lawyers said
‘Every act that they intend to rely upon as proof involved Mr Bannon’s reliance upon legal advice.’
But on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols, who was appointed by Donald Trump, nixed the defense.
He ruled that the ‘advice of counsel’ defense cannot be used in contempt of Congress cases, citing a 1961 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals that said what mattered was the fact that the defendant intentionally defied a subpoena.
Bannon’s legal team issued a long statement disputing the legal basis of the decision and said it would make fresh arguments at a hearing next week.
David Schoen, Bannon’s attorney, said the 1961 case – involving Cleveland organized crime boss Peter Licavoli – was not an appropriate precedent.
‘But Licavoli did not involve the invocation of executive privilege by the former president of the United States,’ he said.
‘It involved a reputed mobster who just didn’t show up when subpoenaed and gave no reason.’
Applying this standard to Bannon’s case, he added, effectively gave Congress a veto over the executive branch’s use of executive privilege.
And he said Bannon had relied throughout on the advice of his attorney, who in turn relied on Department of Justice policy.
‘The judge’s decision today opens up all new fascinating constitutional arguments as to why this statute is unconstitutional as applied and we will make those arguments in court,’ he said.
In November, Bannon, 68, pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the contempt charge and vowed to make the case a ‘misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.’
The trial is due to start on July 18.
This is an excerpt from The Daily Mail.
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