Bannon may be allowed to appear to the jury in recent congressional contempt trial to testify

US District Judge Carl Nichols said in a pre-trial hearing Thursday that he has not yet decided whether to allow that evidence to be accepted. But by not immediately halting Bannon’s efforts to present this evidence, Nichols has kept up the possibility that Bannon will have an additional defense to present at next week’s trial.

The judge had previously dealt several blows to Bannon’s defense, blocking several avenues his lawyers had hoped to use to defend his failure to appear before the panel last year and provide the documents it requested. At a hearing earlier this week, his attorney David Schoen said loudly: “What’s the point of going to trial here if there’s no defense?”

Thursday’s proceedings – the last before Bannon’s trial begins on Monday – may give his defense team a glimmer of hope in a case that the Justice Department has tried to keep as clear and concise as possible, greatly limiting Bannon’s ability to attempt a turnaround. Blaming his lawyers or warnings from Donald Trump’s lawyers. While Bannon attempted to complicate the trial with claims of privilege and arguments for needing members of Congress as witnesses, prosecutors say they only need two or three government witnesses and a few days to prove their case.

Nichols said Thursday that he will decide whether the jury can hear the offer of cooperation during the trial. Bannon’s attorney will have the opportunity to discuss why the evidence is important before questioning a government witness. The Justice Department hopes to disqualify both a letter from former President Trump alleging that Trump is waiving executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony and a letter Bannon’s lawyer sent to the committee to provide Bannon’s testimony.

A key issue is whether the evidence he will get is whether the deadlines in the subpoenas were set or whether Bannon didn’t show up because he had reason to believe those deadlines were no longer enforceable – which means Bannon may have been negotiating them. cooperation so far.

Nichols said Thursday that the evidence in question is “at least potentially relevant” to the case.

Judge once again rejects Bannon’s bid to postpone trial

Judge Nichols said the trial will begin by jury selection on Monday, rejecting Bannon’s second request to postpone the start date.

In his latest effort to adjourn the trial, which went to court on Wednesday, Bannon cited a panel hearing on Tuesday Jan. 6 and a CNN documentary about him that is set to premiere on Sunday. Bannon claimed that the hearings and that the documentary would harm the group of jurors against him.

But the judge agreed Thursday with the Justice Department that 14 of the jurors who had not watched the hearings, read coverage about them or watched the media about Bannon could be found in Washington next week.

Federal Judge Nichols said Thursday morning that “Mr. Bannon has still, in my view, shown no further delay” that would be necessary for an unbiased jury.

Bannon is accused of failing to testify and turn over documents to the House Select Committee in the January 6 investigation. He has pleaded not guilty. He was not in the courtroom on Thursday.

The defense team said they will likely call Bannon to testify in his own defense at the trial.

When asked on Thursday if he would testify, Schoen told the media, “It’s too early to make a decision like that.”

Debate over whether Bannon’s deadline for complying with the subpoena is fixed

During most of Thursday’s hearing, the parties discussed what kind of evidence could be presented to show that the dates for the subpoena’s return were not in fact fixed deadlines but part of the negotiation process. Bannon’s team hopes to present to the jury its latest offer to cooperate with the committee, which Bannon said was prompted by Trump’s new willingness to waive assertions of executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony.

The Ministry of Justice indicated that the criminal prosecution does not aim to urge him to testify, but rather punishes him for not complying with the summons dates.

Justice Department attorney Amanda Vaughn said Thursday that evidence released before the subpoena’s return date showing the negotiations would be fair game for the jury.

But she said any evidence after the date of the subpoena’s return — October 7 for documents and October 14 for testimony — was not relevant and should not be presented to the jury, including Bannon’s recent presentations.

In particular, Bannon’s team sought to highlight comments made by committee chair Benny Thompson after the return date, in which a Mississippi Democrat urged Bannon to “choose to change his position” and comply with the subpoenas. And they could try to argue, possibly through potential subsequent appeals, that Bannon did not default on the subpoena because the date he had to comply with was not set, according to arguments Thursday.

“Any evidence” before or after the return date “shows that the date was not certain … is relevant to the jury,” Schoen said.

Vaughn argued that such an approach “creates a perverse incentive whereby people can refuse to comply with government orders” until they reach “the brink” and then offer to cooperate.

“The fact that the commission was then still trying to get the information to which it was entitled … is that it provides no evidence of what the obvious choice was at the time charged,” she said.

CNN’s Sarah Murray contributed to this report.

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