A federal judge on Monday denied a request by Steve Bannon for his contempt-of-Congress trial to be delayed from its July 18 start date and severely limited the defenses that the former Donald Trump adviser could put forward at the trial.
The rulings from US District Judge Carl Nichols came after court filings overnight that showed that the FBI interviewed Trump’s attorney two weeks ago. The disclosure from federal prosecutors in the filings could significantly shape the Justice Department’s sprawling investigation into the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
In his interview on June 29, the attorney, Justin Clark, contradicted Bannon’s claim that the former President invoked executive privilege over particular information or materials, which Bannon had cited as an excuse to avoid testifying before the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Bannon on Saturday told the committee that he is now willing to testify, ideally at a public hearing, according to a letter obtained by CNN. He had previously defied a congressional subpoena and is set to go on trial on criminal contempt charges later this month. The reversal came after he received a letter from Trump waiving executive privilege, although both the House select committee and federal prosecutors contend that privilege claim never gave Bannon carte blanche to ignore a congressional subpoena in the first place.
According to prosecutors, Bannon’s “attorney misrepresented to the Committee what the former President’s counsel had told the Defendant’s attorney.”
In October, Bannon’s attorneys told the House select committee that Clark had informed them that Trump would exercise executive privilege over Bannon and “has directed Mr. Bannon not to produce documents or testify until the issue of executive privilege is resolved.”
Prosecutors have previously cited emails from Clark telling Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, that the letter Costello cited to the committee did not, in fact, indicate that the White House believed Bannon could claim executive privilege.
“The former President’s counsel made clear to the Defendant’s attorney that the letter provided no basis for total noncompliance,” prosecutors wrote in Monday’s filing.
The January 6 committee was interested in speaking to Bannon about his communications with Trump in December 2020, when Bannon reportedly urged him to focus on the January 6 certification of the presidential election results. Committee members were also interested in Bannon’s comments in the run-up to the Capitol insurrection, including a podcast on January 5, in which he predicted, “All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.”
In a Monday court filing, federal prosecutors called Bannon’s willingness to now testify before the House select committee a “last-minute” effort that doesn’t change the case against him, pointing out that he has not produced subpoenaed records.
“The Defendant’s last-minute efforts to testify almost nine months after his default — he has still made no effort to produce records — are irrelevant to whether he willfully refused to comply in October 2021 with the Select Committee’s subpoena,” prosecutors wrote.
“The criminal contempt statute is not intended to procure compliance; it is intended to punish past noncompliance,” prosecutors said.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Monday.