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Before conducting the final phase of jury selection, in which the pool of potential jurors will be whittled down from 22 to 12 plus two alternates, Judge Carl Nichols is hearing arguments on an evidentiary dispute still pending.
Specifically, the judge is considering whether October 2021 letters from House Jan. 6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson to Steve Bannon’s team about the subpoena are admissible. Bannon’s lawyers now want the letters excluded from the trial. Opening statements will be today (Tuesday)
CNN notes this background:
- Former President Trump aide Steve Bannon is on trial on contempt of Congress charges for failing to testify and produce documents following a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
- Last week, a federal judge rejected a trial delay request but kept the possibility open to use a potential new defense argument where Bannon could present his recent bid to testify for the Jan. 6 committee.
- Bannon has pleaded not guilty to the contempt charges. The two charges he faces are misdemeanors, but if found guilty, each carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
Why the case matters: The case is a major test of what leverage Congress has when a witness evades a House subpoena. Bannon’s is the first of two similar House select committee subpoena cases to head to trial; a contempt case against former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is still in its early stages.
Bannon’s trial also carries special relevance for the House panel as it continues to negotiate bringing in additional witnesses, and as it prepares for a major primetime hearing Thursday night intended to spotlight what committee members have called former President Donald Trump’s “dereliction of duty” on January 6.
The charges: A federal grand jury indicted the right-wing figure in November on two counts of criminal contempt — one for his failure to provide testimony demanded by the House select committee’s subpoena in the fall and the other for his failure to produce documents. A key issue at trial will be whether the jury agrees with prosecutors and the House that Bannon’s October subpoena deadlines were final, and that he deliberately disregarded them. Both charges he faces are misdemeanors. But if he is found guilty, each carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.