Steve Bannon’s Contempt Trial Over Jan. 6 Subpoena Begins

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Ex-Trump strategist, facing charges that he defined subpoena by House committee, sought to have the trial postponed

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Jury selection was under way Monday morning in federal court in Washington. That process has been a central focus for Mr. Bannon’s legal team, which repeatedly asked to postpone the trial, arguing that publicity around the recent Jan. 6 hearings committees would taint potential jurors.

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US District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, declined to delay the trial. The judge said last week that he acknowledged Mr. Bannon’s concerns about possible bias but preferred to address the issue by questioning potential jurors to determine whether they could be fair.

After filling out a questionnaire, potential jurors were brought into the courtroom individually and asked about their familiarity with Mr. Bannon and whether they could be impartial. Judge Nichols disqualified several potential jurors who said they had already formed negative views of Mr. Bannon, but some drew no challenges from the defense after saying they were only vaguely aware of the case.

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Judge Nichols on Monday oversaw the selection of 22 potential jurors. That group will be narrowed down on Tuesday morning to 12 jurors and two alternates, the judge said, after which opening statements will begin.

Mr. Bannon worked as a strategist during the beginning of the Trump administration but was not employed by the White House around the time of the 2020 election.

Just over a week ago, Mr. Bannon made a last-minute offer to testify to the Jan. 6 committee, adding he would prefer to do so at a public hearing. Mr. Bannon said he was now willing to testify because Mr. Trump recently waived executive privilege. Prosecutors had disputed Mr. Bannon’s privilege claim.

Prosecutors have argued before the trial’s onset that Mr. Bannon’s lawyers shouldn’t be allowed to present evidence about his recent offer to testify, saying the alleged crime was committed when Mr. Bannon didn’t testify last year. During a pretrial conference last week, Judge Nichols said he would decide that issue at a later point, saying Mr. Bannon’s recent offer to testify might be relevant to his defense.

In a filing Friday, Mr. Bannon again asked the judge to dismiss the charges against him, arguing that his legal team can’t fully defend him because the judge rejected his attempt to subpoena members of the Jan. 6 committee and other lawmakers.

Prosecutors as opposed to Mr. Bannon’s latest bid to dismiss the case, writing that he “fails to articulate any testimony he seeks from these individuals that is relevant in his trial, much less that would be exculpatory or noncumulative.”

Contempt of Congress is rarely charged. In two similar cases in Washington federal court during the 1990s, President George HW Bush ultimately pardoned Elliott Abrams, an assistant secretary of state during the Reagan administration, and former CIA official Alan D. Fiers Jr. Both men had pleaded guilty to contempt charges related to the Iran-Contra scandal and were sentenced to probation before being pardoned.

Write to Alexa Corse at [email protected]


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