Former Trump adviser Bannon feels he ‘rules the law,’ prosecutor tells grand jury According to Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Steve Bannon, talk show host and former White House adviser to former US President Donald Trump, speaks to reporters before entering the US District Court in Washington, US, day June 15, 2022. REUTERS / Elizabeth Frantz / File Photo

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A federal prosecutor told jurors on Tuesday at Steve Bannon’s criminal trial that President Donald Trump’s prominent former presidential adviser decided he was “above the law.” ” in defiance of a subpoena from the congressional committee investigating last year’s attack on the US Capitol.

The prosecution and defense gave opening remarks after jurors were selected in the trial, with the first government witness then testifying. Evan Corcoran, Bannon’s attorney, said in his opening statement that Bannon did not ignore the subpoena and did in fact engage with the committee in the belief that it would negotiate with his attorney and the timing. Its terms “are not fixed – they are very flexible.”

Bannon, 68, pleaded not guilty to two counts of contempt of Congress brought after he refused to provide testimony or documents last year to the Democratic-led House selection committee.

Prosecutor Amanda Vaughn told jurors that the subpoena, issued last September, “wasn’t optional. It wasn’t a request. And it wasn’t an invitation. It was. is mandatory.”

Vaughn added: “The defendant has decided that he is above the law. “That’s why we’re here today.”

Vaughn said the committee has reason to believe that Bannon may have information about the events leading up to the January 6, 2021 riots. Trump supporters stormed the Capitol and attacked police in an attempt failed effort to prevent official congressional certification of his 2020 election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

Bannon “wasn’t stuck in a broken Metro car,” Vaughn said of the defendant’s refusal to comply with the subpoena, referring to the Washington-area subway system. Instead, the case is about “the defendant pointing his finger to his nose” before normal government process, Vaughn added.

Corcoran said that committee staff and attorneys for proposed witnesses are almost always negotiating — and witnesses often show up later than the date specified in the subpoena.

“It was the process,” Corcoran said.


Kristin Amerling, the commission’s general counsel, was the first prosecution witness.

“When the commission issues a deadline subpoena, is it important for the committee to comply with the deadline?” Vaughn asked Amerling.

“Absolutely,” Amerling replied. “The selection committee is looking at a violent attack on the US Capitol, on law enforcement, on our democratic institutions. We have a limited amount of time.”

Amerling said the commission’s authority will expire at the end of 2022.

In explaining the jury’s interest in hearing the news from Bannon, Amerling noted that he told a podcast the day before the riots that “all hell will break tomorrow” and that the committee wanted find out if he knew about the attack in advance.

Twelve juries and two substitutes – nine men and five women – were chosen, with US District Judge Carl Nichols presiding over the trial.

Nichols had previously ruled that Bannon could not claim he was not complying with the subpoena because he believed his documents and testimony were protected by a legal doctrine known as executive privilege. The law can keep some of the president’s communications secret.

The judge also barred Bannon from telling jurors that he relied on advice from his attorney, who told him there were valid legal reasons he might not respond to subpoenas. .

Corcoran told jurors that Bannon, after being subpoenaed, sought advice from attorney, Robert Costello, who later raised objections to the committee including whether the requested information should be protected protected by executive privilege or not. Corcoran said that these objections were “not an excuse” for noncompliance, but the fact that Bannon’s attorney was directly involved with the committee suggests that the defendant did not knowingly ignore the subpoena.

Bannon reversed course this month and said he wanted to testify before a public commission hearing, nearly 10 months after defying a subpoena. There is no indication of any plans for him to do so, as the committee will likely want him to testify first in closed sessions to cover many issues. Trump told Bannon he would waive any request for executive privilege.

“You’ll also see the reason the defendant gives for not complying. You’ll see him claim something called a favor,” Vaughn told the jury.

As a top adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and later chief White House strategist, Bannon helped articulate right-wing “America First” populism and opposition. His harshness on immigration helped define Trump’s presidency.

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