“Explosion of the whole system”

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Steve Bannon – the right-wing media figure turned adviser to Donald Trump and back to the right-wing media figure – became the first person in nearly 40 years to be charged with criminal contempt of Congress last month after refusing to cooperate with the Committee of the House investigating the January 6 insurgency. Now Bannon appears to be using his criminal case to sue the committee that sued him.

Bannon is trying to force investigators to potentially reveal who they spoke to and what they said, take a look at the committee’s secret communications and create a manual for other resistant witnesses, according to several legal experts .

“There is no cost in opposing Congress if you can give Congress a black eye for even daring to ask you questions,” said Kel McClanahan, a national security attorney.

As Bannon faces criminal charges, he has a right to the evidence against him. And in a typical galaxy-brain counter-gambit, Bannon, Trump’s former senior adviser, is trying to make some of that evidence public.

According to a Sunday evening court filing by federal prosecutors, which includes secret interviews with witnesses by law enforcement and internal communications between staff members of House committees. The Justice Department says that if this material were exposed to the public, it would cause “specific damage” such as “witness tampering,” with the added effect of making it difficult to find impartial jurors in a future trial.

In a court filing On Tuesday, Bannon’s lawyers said the government’s argument was “festooned with hyperbole … perhaps designed to score points with the media.” On the same day, a “press coalition” of 15 news outlets, including Buzzfeed, CNN and The Washington Post—Side on Bannon’s side and asked the judge overseeing the case to make the documents available and dismiss what he called “that broad gag order.”

But while most press coverage of this fight rests on the accusation that Bannon is trying to make it a media circus Where spectacle, some legal scholars argue that the real intention is to harm the investigation itself. One called it “graymail,” a legal defense tactic that amounts to blackmail and has since been banned.

“This is not to judge the case in the media. It’s about making it expensive for the committee to sue him, ”McClanahan told The Daily Beast. “It’s graymail, plain and simple: you can’t touch me, because if you do, I’ll reveal your secrets.” “

In that sense, Bannon is dramatically increasing the cost of his lawsuits – keeping his promise to turn this into “hellish crime for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.”

Bannon’s attorneys in this case have not responded to repeated requests from the Daily Beast. However, in court documents, they strongly rejected the idea that Bannon’s strategy is to misuse the evidence.

“This is a misdemeanor case,” they wrote in Tuesday’s filing. “This is not a case where witnesses were intimidated. In the absence of any specific and precise demonstration of real harm, the government invokes a bogeyman. “

Instead, Bannon’s attorneys said “being able to use discovery documents to identify and interview witnesses is not an inappropriate goal.”

There’s no indication that Bannon’s team wants to turn everything upside down. His lawyers wrote a proposed order for the judge who would still keep secret the documents produced during the grand jury which indicted him on November 12.

Bannon is represented by two lawyers in his criminal contempt case. One is Mr. Evan Corcoran, a former federal prosecutor who came close to occupying a high-level post in the US attorney’s office in Washington during Trump’s last year in office, according to The national law review. The other is David I. Schoen, one of the attorneys who represented Trump in his second US Senate impeachment trial.

Bannon spokeswoman Alexandra Preate made no comment, pointing to legal documents filed in the case.

But other lawyers say the comprehensive tactic of opening the safe so early in a court case is unprecedented, a prelude to a nasty fight to come.

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Steve Bannon speaks with reporters as he left court in November after being charged. Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images

drew anger

“Normally that doesn’t happen. His goal is to blow up the whole system. He’s almost an anarchist,” said Jennifer Rodgers, a former Manhattan federal prosecutor who now teaches at Columbia University.

“It may not really be the content of a particular document. It could be a matter of process, ”she said.

Lawyers overseeing the case generally feel that exposing the committee’s work while its investigation is still ongoing could expose it to public criticism and potentially hamper its work. But the real damage could simply come from throwing a wrench into the future lawsuits of other people who refuse to answer the committee’s questions, such as former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who has been threatened with contempt charges by the committee for not cooperating. The same goes for Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official who allegedly tried to get the Justice Department to help Trump overturn the 2020 election, who declined to answer questions and was voted “for contempt” by the committee Wednesday evening.

Since most contempt of Congress cases would be nearly identical, exposing witnesses in the Bannon case would give other Resisters a long warning of what’s to come.

“This is one of his goals: to try to make it more difficult for the committee to execute its subpoenas in the future,” said Jonathan David Shaub, a professor of law at the University of Kentucky who worked previously at the Ministry of Justice.

“It’s a frightening effect,” Shaub added. “If you know you’re going to have to divulge a ton of information, you probably won’t initiate that first lawsuit until you get the others.”

The select committee investigating the January 6 insurgency, headed by Representative Bennie G. Thompson, made no comment on the matter.

U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols, who was appointed a judge by Trump in 2019, has yet to decide whether the documents in question will be made public.

At this point, all eyes are on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals next ruling on Trump’s legal battle against the committee, which will determine whether the former president has a legitimate argument for residual executive privilege now that ‘he left the White House. This case could embolden or gut the claims currently made by Bannon, Clark and others that they can’t speak because Trump says so.

But Trump’s inconsistent loyalty to his subordinates could have a more immediate impact, as evidenced by how he so quickly turned his back on his longtime former lawyer Michael Cohen, who later became a thorn in the side.

Case in point: how Trump lashed out at Meadows this week.

After writing a largely flattering book about his time as Trump’s chief of staff, Trump on Wednesday dismissed a story Meadows wrote in his soon-to-be-released book.

Meadows wrote that Trump tested positive for COVID before his first debate with Joe Biden, days before Trump or the White House revealed he had coronavirus.

Trump immediately threw Meadows under the bus and issued a statement calling the report “Fake News.”


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