Steve Bannon claimed that he didn’t “willfully” commit a crime by defying congressional subpoenas

Washington - Steven Bannon, the ex-chief White House strategist for Donald Trump, filed a court filing on Friday arguing that he is not guilty of criminal contempt of Congress.

Muhammed Kayan
Muhammed Kayan
27 February 2022 Sunday 10:05
4387 Reads
Steve Bannon claimed that he didn’t “willfully” commit a crime by defying congressional subpoenas

He was following the advice of his lawyers, but did not know he was actually committing a crime.

He refused to give documents and testify to the House Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol on January 6. He was advised by his lawyers not to appear for the interview with congressional staff and to turn over requested material, as former President Trump wants to assert executive privilege. Bannon wasn't employed by the White House on January 6, 2021 -- had not been since 2017.

"Reliance upon counsel fundamentally negates guilt," Friday's defense attorneys wrote. They offered a preview of their arguments to Bannon's defense at trial which is currently scheduled for July.



 

Because Bannon's lawyers provided him with "erroneous" legal advice and he did not heed it, the government's lawyers have tried to expel material from this line of reasoning.

In October, the House voted to hold Bannon in contempt. He refused to appear before the committee or turn over documents. The matter was referred to the Justice Department. In November , a federal grand jury indicted Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress.

Prosecutors claim that Bannon was given "erroneous" advice to resist subpoenas. They have requested the federal judge who is overseeing Bannon’s case to stop him from defending his inaction.

Costello's legal advice was flawed according to prosecutors in court filings. Therefore, Bannon's failure not to comply with that advice broke the law.

Prosecutors wrote that Bannon's "purported dependence on his counsel's incorrect advice otherwise is not a defense to the crime charges." They stated that evidence and arguments supporting this should not be permitted in Bannon’s trial.

"The deliberate failure to comply with a congressional subpoena--regardless of motivation--constitutes the crime of contempt."

However, Bannon's lawyers argue that the legal guidance was sound and that the defense is valid.

"Mr. Costello advised Mr. Bannon he didn't have the ability waive executive privilege, and he didn't have the ability discern which documents or communications were protected, since that authority belonged former President Trump," Friday’s filing states. Accordingly to Friday’s filing, the decision was not a willful breach of law but was taken under counsel's direction.

Bannon's lawyer allegedly argued with federal prosecutors and the House select committee to argue that Bannon did not intend to violate the law. Instead, he followed the advice of his lawyers and former President Trump.

The U.S. Attorney's Office Washington, D.C. doesn't comment on statements made during court hearings or filings.

Numerous federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have rejected Trump's claim to executive privilege and ruled that executive privilege rights belong to the sitting president. This means that President Biden can exercise executive privilege. Trump might not.

Bannon's lawyers wrote Friday that Costello requested the House committee to defer proceedings while the executive privilege issue made its way through the courts. The committee declined.

Indictment issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C. in November alleges that Bannon made no substantive submission to the Select Committee's deliberations, didn't produce documents or communications, didn't provide a log with withheld records, didn't certify that he had diligently searched for responsive records, didn't appear for a deposition, nor did he comply with any subpoena.

So far, he is the only one to be charged with refusing to appear in front of the House committee. The House committee has also subpoenaed other Trump aides including Kayleigh McEnany and Stephen Miller, a former senior adviser.

After Mark Meadows, the former Trump White House chief-of-staff, refused to appear in December's deposition, the House also referred Meadows to Justice Department for criminal contempt. Since then, he sued the committee for nullifying subpoenas to his testimony and phone records.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the January 6 select committee last year to investigate the attack. Thousands of Trump supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol as Congress and Vice President Mike Pence met to count the electoral vote, a ceremonial final step in Mr. Biden’s victory. During the chaos, five lawmakers were killed and hundreds more were arrested. Trump encouraged his supporters to "walk up" to the Capitol during the "Stop the Steal Rally." He was later impeached by the House for inciting the riot, and later acquitted of the Senate.

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