Proceedings began Monday with jury selection at the federal courthouse in Washington, DC. Twenty-two potential jurors have been found, and the 12 who make up the jury and two alternates will be selected on Tuesday morning. Opening arguments will begin shortly thereafter.
The polarizing longtime Trump ally has consistently topped the Jan. 6 witness list for House investigators. But Justice Department prosecutors say the lawsuit aims to punish Bannon for breaching subpoenas, rather than compel him to share information.
The case is a major test of congressional influence when a witness escapes a subpoena. Bannon is the first of two similar House Select Committee subpoena cases 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 importance to the House panel as it continues to negotiate to bring in additional witnesses and prepares for a major prime-time hearing on Thursday evening intended to shed light on what committee members called former President Donald Trump’s “dereliction of duty” in January. 6.
Jurors questioned on House inquiry
During Monday’s jury selection process, potential jurors were not pressed on their general feelings about Bannon or Trump.
They were, however, questioned about their consumption of information about the House investigation and the case itself. Some said they consumed a bit of the House hearings, if that’s the case.
Many would-be jurors said they had heard little about Bannon’s case, but many attended at least some of the select committee’s public hearings. But awareness alone is not enough to get them kicked out of the jury pool.
Among the jurors who qualified for the 22 are a man who works with Covid-19 tests, a retired union woman who is now writing a thesis and a self-proclaimed ‘recovering’ lawyer who now works at the department of state.
The lawyer-turned-government official told the judge she thought executive privilege might be part of the case and that the case was about whether Bannon had to testify or was shielded.
It’s unclear whether Bannon’s legal team will be able to make arguments that even mention executive privilege to the jury. The judge, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, allowed him to continue as a potential juror because his knowledge of the case was limited.
Bannon’s team has repeatedly argued that pretrial publicity, especially with congressional hearings, should at least delay his case.
But many would-be jurors said they either did not form an opinion or knew little of the details and were not questioned thoroughly about Bannon’s political history.
A potential juror said she had a “high-level awareness” of the select committee’s proceedings and the case, and heard that not everyone had responded to the subpoenas they had received – even though they should have. But “we haven’t heard the whole story yet,” the legal aid worker told the judge. “I assume you will have to explain the law to us.”
She remained in the jury pool.
Another would-be juror was kicked out of the pool after telling the judge he watched all the select committee hearings, then slammed Republicans who say the election was stolen and, looking to Bannon, said: “I believe he is guilty.”
The trial should go quickly
The prosecutors promise that their case against Bannon will be presented succinctly, in just a few days, with only two or three prosecution witnesses. This list includes investigators from House committees.
It’s unclear what the extent of Bannon’s defense will be, or if he’ll want to speak up in his own defense. He will not be able to force members of the House to testify, the judge said.
At the start of the case, Bannon vowed to make the proceedings “the crime of hell for (Attorney General) Merrick Garland, (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi and (Speaker) Joe Biden.” But at a recent court hearing, his defense attorney, David Schoen, complained, “What’s the point of going to trial here if there’s no defense?
Bannon – who accepted an 11-hour pardon from Trump in 2021 as he faced conspiracy wire fraud and money laundering charges in Manhattan federal court related to a fundraising scheme for the border wall – has made a series of attempts in court in recent days to halt the trial, further shape a defense or prepare for possible appeals.
So far, Nichols has overwhelmingly sided with the Justice Department on the evidence the jury can hear, preventing Bannon from trying to rely on the advice his lawyer gave him or using the DOJ’s internal policies on the presidential advisers he hoped could protect him.
In recent weeks, Trump has indicated he wants to waive any executive privileges that may have applied to Bannon, and Bannon has suggested he may be interested in speaking with the House committee — a series of events Bannon’s team now wants to try to show the jury. But his ability to raise arguments about executive privilege will be, at best, severely limited. Bannon was not a government official during the period studied by the committee.
A federal grand jury indicted the right-wing figure in November on two counts of criminal contempt — one for his failure to provide the testimony demanded by the House Select Committee subpoena in the fall and the another for his inability to produce documents. A key question at trial will be whether the jury agrees with prosecutors and the House that Bannon’s October subpoena deadlines were final and that he deliberately ignored them.
The two counts he faces are misdemeanors. But if convicted, each carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
Bannon was one of the first potential Jan. 6 witnesses the House committee subpoenaed — and he’s one of a handful of people the committee has looked down on. The committee said they wanted to get his documents and ask him questions because Bannon had contact with Trump
was in the so-called Trump allies war room at the Willard Hotel in Washington as the riot unfolded, and predicted on his pre-riot podcast that “all hell” would “break loose “.
“In short, Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multifaceted role in the events of January 6, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the House committee said in a statement. his report presenting a resolution for contempt against Bannon.
When Bannon faced deadlines in October, his attorney, Robert Costello, told the committee that Bannon would not cooperate with the investigation because of Trump’s instructions that he should, “if appropriate, invoke immunities and privileges.” that he might have”.
Since then, criminal investigators have interviewed Costello, as well as a Trump attorney, Justin Clark, to build their case. According to them the description
of Clark’s statements, he said that Costello Trump could not protect Bannon from total non-compliance with subpoenas.
Prior to Bannon’s trial, the House committee presented details about him in some of its public submissions. During a hearing last Tuesday, the committee revealed White House 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 another hearing scheduled for prime time 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.