Steve Bannon trial: jury selection continues for day 2 – National

The contempt of Congress trial of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon will stretch into a second day after lawyers worked through a long session on Monday trying to select a jury with no preconceived opinions. Bannon faces criminal charges after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riots.

Bannon, an unofficial adviser to President Donald Trump at the time of the Capitol attack, is charged in federal court with defying a Jan. 6 committee subpoena that sought his records and testimony. He was charged in November with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received a referral from Congress. Each count carries a minimum of 30 days in jail and up to a year behind bars.

Monday’s session before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols was all about jury selection in a slow process known as a voir dire. By the end of the day, 22 prospective jurors had been identified. The trial will resume Tuesday morning as attorneys for Bannon and the government narrow the list to 14 – with 12 jurors and two alternates.

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Steve Bannon trial: Jury selection begins for ex-Trump adviser

Much of Monday’s questioning of potential jurors by Bannon’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, focused on how much of the extensive coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings they watched and whether they have any opinions. about the committee and its work.

In one instance, a prospective juror told Nichols that remaining impartial would be « a challenge » for him since « I believe (Bannon) is guilty. »

This admission, in addition to disqualifying the potential juror, prompted other people who had sat next to the man to interrogate to determine the extent to which he shared his opinion.

Click to play video: 'Steve Bannon mocks Jan 6 hearing, says their 'hearings stink and can't compete with 'his trial'

Steve Bannon mocks Jan. 6 hearing, says their ‘hearings stink and can’t compete’ with his trial

Steve Bannon mocks Jan 6 hearing, says their ‘hearings stink and can’t compete’ with his trial – June 15, 2022

The high-profile and divisive nature of the case weighed on Monday’s session, with Corcoran seeking to block jurors who expressed strong opinions about Bannon or Trump, or who had any personal connection to Jan. 6 or the Capitol. .

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At one point, Judge Nichols agreed to disqualify a woman whose mother is a staffer for Florida Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel. In another case, Corcoran successfully argued to disqualify a man who said the January 6 committee’s work was « important » and that he was closely monitoring its developments.

“He comes in with a mindset where he’s very focused on January 6,” Corcoran said. « I just don’t think he can be fair. »

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Bannon attended the entire session, but never spoke.

The lawsuit follows a flurry of activity in the case since July 9. More than a week ago, the former White House strategist informed the committee that he was now willing to testify. His former attorney, Robert Costello, said the change was because Trump waived his claim for executive privilege preventing testimony.

Bannon, 68, had been one of Trump’s most prominent resistant allies refusing to testify before the committee. He had argued that his testimony was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege, which allows presidents to withhold confidential information from courts and the legislature.

Trump has repeatedly asserted executive privilege — even though he is a former president, not the current one — in an attempt to block witness testimony and the release of White House documents. In January, the Supreme Court ruled against Trump’s efforts to block the National Archives from cooperating with the committee after a lower court judge — Ketanji Brown Jackson, now on the Supreme Court — noted, in party, that « presidents are not kings ».

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Steve Bannon surrenders to the FBI on contempt of Congress charges

Steve Bannon surrenders to the FBI following contempt of congress indictment – ​​November 15, 2021

The committee also noted that Trump fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and therefore Bannon was a private citizen when consulting with the president on the eve of the riot.

Judge Nichols denied motions to delay the contempt trial in separate hearings last week, including Thursday when Bannon’s attorneys raised concerns about an upcoming CNN report that has since aired on their client and what they called damaging comments made during a hearing last week held by the House Committee.

“I am aware of the current concerns about publicity and bias and whether we can sit a jury that will be appropriate and fair, but as I have said before I think the appropriate route is to go through the process of voir dire, » Nichols said. Thursday. The judge said he intended to have a jury that « will be proper, fair and impartial ».

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While the judge allowed the trial to move forward, Nichols left open the possibility that letters regarding Trump’s waiver of his privilege and Bannon’s offer to cooperate with the committee could be referenced in the trial, saying the information were « at least potentially relevant » to Bannon’s defense.

Roscoe Howard Jr., the former U.S. attorney in Washington, said the best case for Bannon was if the information about his offer to cooperate got through to the jury. Even if it does, however, claiming that executive privilege prevented him from cooperating earlier will be a tough argument to make because Bannon refused to even answer the subpoena, Howard said.

“You must come forward to invoke the claim of privilege. You can’t make phone calls,” he said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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