Jury selection began in the trial of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon who is charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to testify before the House Jan. 6 investigative committee. Once the jury is seated, prosecutors said they only need one day to present their evidence.
The prosecution plans to call an FBI agent and the general counsel for the House committee Kristin Amerling as witnesses. If Bannon is found guilty, he faces up to a year in prison for each of the two counts.
Congressional investigators initially subpoenaed Bannon to ask him what he knew before the riot. The Committee has been presenting evidence that members of Trump’s inner circle knew there was potential for violence on Jan. 6, 2021–even the possibility that rioters could breach government buildings.
“Just understand this, all hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon said on his podcast Jan. 5, 2021.
Bannon’s legal team has tried on multiple occasions to delay the trial but Judge Carl Nichols declined. Defense lawyers argued it would be difficult to seat an open-minded jury because of the press coverage of their client leading up to the trial. Judge Nichols said he intended to find a jury that “is going to be appropriate, fair and unbiased.”
“I am cognizant of current concerns about publicity and bias and whether we can seat a jury that is going to be appropriate and fair, but as I said before, I believe the appropriate course is to go through the voir dire process,” Judge Nichols said Thursday.
Bannon’s attorneys also wanted to delay the trial because Bannon has now agreed to testify before the committee. Prosecutors told the judge however that the crime was already committed when he made the initial refusal and made the analogy of a person who commits money fraud saying, “I always intended to pay them back.”
Bannon refused to testify before the committee because he was citing executive privilege. But the Justice Department’s legal team contends Bannon had no privilege to assert.
“The Defendant offers no evidence that the former President asserted executive privilege with respect to the Defendant’s subpoena directly to the Committee, in any court proceeding, or to any office of the Executive Branch,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in a legal filing. “The Defendant has acknowledged time and again throughout this litigation the settled principle that executive privilege is not his to invoke.”
The AP contributed to this report.