Prosecutors say Steve Bannon deliberately defied Congress; defence lawyers argue he was negotiating with Jan 6 panel.US prosecutors have accused former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon of wilfully ignoring a congressional subpoena in open defiance of the US government.
Bannon’s trial for contempt of Congress charges, stemming from refusing to hand over information subpoenaed by a congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, began on Tuesday.
“It wasn’t optional. It wasn’t a request, and it wasn’t an invitation. It was mandatory,” Assistant US Attorney Amanda Vaughn told jurors in her opening statement.
“The defendant’s failure to comply was deliberate. It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a mistake. It was a choice.”
But his lawyers argued on Tuesday that the charges against him are politically motivated and that Bannon was engaged in good-faith negotiations with the congressional committee when he was charged.
“No one ignored the subpoena,” Evan Corcoran told the jury.
In reality, he said, another one of Bannon’s then-lawyers, Robert Costello, contacted an attorney for the committee to express some of Bannon’s concerns about testifying.
“They did what two lawyers do. They negotiated,” Corcoran said, adding that Bannon and his legal team believed “the dates of the subpoena were not fixed; they were flexible”.
Bannon reversed course this month and said he wanted to testify before a public committee hearing, nearly 10 months after defying the subpoena. There has been no indication of any plan to have him do so, as the committee likely would want him to first testify in closed sessions in order to cover a wide range of matters. Trump told Bannon he was waiving any executive privilege claim.
An unofficial adviser to Trump at the time of the Capitol attack, Bannon is charged with defying a subpoena from the January 6 committee that sought his records and testimony.
He was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, one month after the …