Washington – Former White House chief strategist, who has been charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, is scheduled to stand trial on July 18.
Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., set the date in a virtual status conference held Tuesday, during which the government and Bannon's attorneys also argued over the publication of the evidence that may be used at trial.
Bannon, who faces charges stemming from his refusal to produce documents for the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol and his refusal to be interviewed by the committee, argued that his trial should not be a speedy one, instead advocating for an October trial date. The government requested the trial start in April, arguing the public had a right to a speedy trial. Nichols' decision splits the difference between the sides.
As the evidentiary discovery process unfolds, prosecutors say the trial materials should be kept relatively out of public view and asked the court for a protective order over much of their evidence.
"This case should be decided in the courtroom...not in media," the assistant U.S. attorney told the court Tuesday.
The government argued that Bannon will use any evidence they provide as media fodder, alleging he has already made clear "he plans to disseminate this material to the public."
Bannon's attorneys balked at this characterization, asserting, "It is not our intention at all" to turn the proceedings into a public trial. They said they just want the public to be able "to see how decisions were made in this case."
"We do believe the committee's discussion" about Bannon is "the business of the public," attorney David Schoen said, later adding that "there's a fundamental philosophical difference" between their views and that of the government about what information should be protected by the court.
Nichols said he would issue a ruling on the protective order in Bannon's case in due time.
Schoen also laid out some of Bannon's defense, arguing that the January 6 committee lacked a legislative purpose in issuing the subpoena in the first place and that the U.S. attorney's office had engaged in "selective prosecution," that is, charging Bannon under an unjustifiable standard that violates his 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.
"President Biden himself called for the prosecution of Mr. Bannon," the defense attorney said, advocating for ample time to go over evidence in the case, "What went on in the White House?"
Prosecutors, however, turned the defense's argument for the public's right for transparency in the cases against them, asserting that letting the case "languish" for any more time than absolutely necessary "does not serve the public's right to speedy trial."
The parties have until next week to explain any objections they have to the trial date.
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