The exchange was a precursor to what will likely become the biggest battle ahead of Bannon’s criminal trial for refusing to provide documents or testimony to House investigators who were probing Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Bannon is a key figure in their investigation; the Jan.6 select committee believes it communicated with Trump at key points in December 2020 and encouraged him to focus on stopping the Jan.6 certification from the election.
Trump asked Bannon and several other allies to refuse to cooperate with the Jan.6 select committee, saying they were immune from subpoenas requiring them to testify in Congress – a theory with limited legal basis , especially for a former president.
Assistant U.S. attorney Amanda Vaughn said the gist of the case was straightforward, involving around 200 documents – most of which are simply letters exchanged between lawyers for Bannon and lawyers for the Jan.6 committee or Trump.
“In our opinion, this is a very straightforward matter as to whether the accused has shown up or not,” she told the court, alluding to Bannon’s categorical refusal to appear for a trial. testimony before the House committee.
Vaughn asked Nichols to immediately set a trial date for Bannon.
But Bannon’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, told the judge it could take some time before his client is ready to present his defense. Corcoran said the case presents “more complex constitutional issues” than prosecutors have described and would potentially require obtaining documents from members of Congress. This process, he said, could become lengthy.
“The government has described this as a straightforward matter with only 200 documents, but I think it is an oversimplification,” defense attorney said during the hearing, held by video conference.
Corcoran also said the judge may want to wait for the outcome of a civil lawsuit Trump filed to challenge the legitimacy of the House select committee investigation. He is scheduled for oral argument before a panel of the Federal Court of Appeal on November 30.
“There are complex constitutional issues at stake,” the defense lawyer added. “It really doesn’t make sense today to set a trial date that will probably be moved.”
Corcoran has also repeatedly suggested that it would be unfair for Bannon’s case to delay the hundreds of criminal cases related to the storming of the Capitol on January 6.
“From a very practical point of view, we are not asking to reduce the queue and we understand that this is something that affects the role of the court,” Corcoran said.
But Nichols didn’t seem impressed by Bannon’s attorney’s unusual expressions regarding cases in which neither he nor his client are directly involved.
“It seems to me that I can manage the interaction between this case and the other cases in my case in a way that will ensure that no one will spend their day in court,” the judge replied curtly.
While Corcoran offered to meet again in January to discuss next steps, Nichols said it was too slow a pace and set another hearing for December 7.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to wait, basically a month and a half or more,” said the Trump-appointed judge.
Bannon faces two charges of contempt of Congress: one for refusing to testify and another for failing to provide any of the documents requested by the House panel. Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a fine of up to $ 100,000.