Steve Bannon trial: Jury selection expected to begin

WASHINGTON (AP) — The congressional contempt trial of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is set to go into a second day as prosecutors try to pick a jury without prejudice in Monday’s hearings. Bannon faces criminal charges after months of refusing to cooperate with a House committee January 6, 2021 The Capitol investigates the rebellion.

Bannon, who was an unofficial adviser to President Donald Trump during the Capitol attack, was charged in federal court on Jan. 6 with defying a subpoena from the panel seeking his records and testimony. He was indicted in November In two cases of criminal contempt of Congress, a month after the Justice Department received a congressional referral. Each charge carries a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail and a year behind bars.

Monday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols focused entirely on jury selection in the slow-moving process known as voir dire. By the end of the day, 22 prospective jurors had been identified. The trial will resume Tuesday morning after Bannon and the government’s lawyers whittled the list down to 14 — 12 judges and two alternates.

Much of the questioning of potential jurors by Bannon’s attorney, Evan Corcoran, on Monday centered on how widespread the coverage of the Jan. 6 hearings was, and whether they had opinions about the panel and its work.

At one point, a prospective juror told Nichols that remaining impartial would be “a challenge” for him because “I believe (Bannon) is guilty.”

That admission, in addition to disqualifying a potential juror, prompted additional questions from others seated near the man to determine how widely he shared the man’s opinion.

The high-profile and divisive nature of the case hung over Monday’s hearing, as Corcoran tried to bar jurors who expressed strong opinions about Bannon or Trump or had personal connections to Jan. 6 or the Capitol.

At one point, Judge Nichols agreed to disqualify a woman who was a staffer for Democratic Florida Representative Lois Frankel. In another case Corcoran successfully argued for the disqualification of a man who said the January 6 Committee’s work was “crucial” and that he had been closely monitoring its developments.

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“He’s coming into it on Jan. 6 with a very focused mindset,” Corcoran said. “I don’t think he could be fair.”

Bannon attended the entire session, but did not speak.

The case follows a hectic course of proceedings since July 9. A week ago, the former White House strategist notified the panel that he was now ready to testify.. His former lawyer, Robert Costello, said the change came after Trump dropped his executive order request to block the testimony.

Bannon, 68, was the most prominent of Trump-associates who refused to testify before the panel. He argued that his testimony was protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege, which allows presidents to withhold classified information from the courts and the legislative branch.

Trump has repeatedly urged the executive branch — even as a former, current president — to try to block witness testimony and the release of White House documents. The Supreme Court ruled in January After lower court judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, against Trump’s efforts to block cooperation with the National Archives, Now in the Supreme Court – noted that “Presidents are not kings”.

The group noted that Trump fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and that Bannon was a private citizen when he consulted with the president before the riots.

Judge Nichols denied motions to delay the contempt hearing in separate hearings Last week, including Thursday, Bannon’s lawyers raised concerns about an upcoming CNN report that aired about their client and partisan comments they made during a House committee hearing last week.

“I’m aware of the current concerns about publicity and bias and whether we can seat a jury that’s appropriate and fair, but as I’ve said before, I believe it’s appropriate to go through the damn process,” Nichols said. Thursday. The judge said he wanted a jury that was “appropriate, fair and impartial”.

Even if the judge allowed the trial to move forward, Nichols left open the possibility that Trump’s letters waiving his privilege and Bannon’s offer to cooperate with the committee could be included in the trial, saying the information was “minimally relevant” to Bannon’s defense.

Roscoe Howard Jr., a former U.S. attorney in Washington, would make a better case if the jury was informed of Bannon’s offer of cooperation. However, it would be a difficult argument to say that executive privilege prevented him from cooperating because Bannon refused to respond to the subpoena, Howard said.

“You have to be present to claim the privilege. You can’t phone it in,” he said.

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This story is changed in the 12th paragraph, beginning “Bannan, 68,” for “administration” and the next word “legislature.”

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