Judge sets July trial date in Bannon case
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s criminal trial on contempt of Congress charges for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol will begin on July 18, a federal judge ordered on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said during a pretrial hearing that while he was not convinced by federal prosecutors’ efforts to accelerate the schedule, he did not believe that a trial should wait for nearly a year, as Bannon’s defense team had argued.
The judge acknowledged that his trial schedule is “still a long time in the arc of a criminal case” but said it’s necessary to address the legal and constitutional challenges that Bannon’s lawyers have vowed to raise.
“This is not really a way to suggest that I’m merely splitting the difference because that’s not what I’m doing,” said Nichols, who was appointed by former President Trump. “But I do think that the defendant’s proposal for an October trial date is too slow.”
“But I also think the government’s proposal for an April trial date doesn’t reflect adequately the arguments that will be presented whether they have merit or not.”
While Nichols’s scheduling order did not give the defense as much time to prepare as they asked for, the summer trial date could hamper the select committee’s ability to get information out of the one-time Trump White House strategist.
The judge indicated on Tuesday that he would allot about two weeks of time for the trial, meaning that it could wrap up in early August, just three months before the 2022 midterms.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C. had pushed for an expeditious schedule, asking for an April trial date and saying in a court filing this week that their case against Bannon is straightforward enough to be presented to a jury in a single day.
“What’s critical from the government’s perspective is that the public’s right to a speedy trial, which is just as well established and recognized as the defendant’s, is respected in this case,” assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn said during the hearing on Tuesday.
Bannon’s lawyers have hinted that they intend to bring an array of challenges against the prosecution and the select committee, raising questions about the validity of the panel’s investigation and the Justice Department’s decision to prosecute. The defense argued that it needs to be able to collect discovery from the executive and legislative branches in order to build its case.
“This was a radical move, and we believe for a bad motive,” said David Schoen, one of Bannon’s attorneys. “These are the kinds of things we want to look into.”
Nichols ordered the two parties to confer and submit a proposed schedule for pretrial motions by Dec. 16.
Correction: This story was updated Dec. 8 to correct the first name of Bannon’s lawyer. It is David, not Doug.