The day after Steve Bannon mused about beheading FBI Director Christopher Wray and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Trump loyalist’s powerhouse lawyers asked a federal judge on Friday to postpone a hearing scheduled for Monday because they intend to withdraw from his criminal case.
“Mr. Bannon is in the process of retaining new counsel, and Quinn Emanuel intends to move to withdraw. As a result, Mr. Bannon respectfully requests that the status conference in this matter be adjourned for three weeks so that he may formally retain new counsel,” Bannon’s current counsel William Burck wrote in a two-paragraph letter.
Burck did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment, with the inquiry prompting an automatic message stating that he will be difficult to reach as he defends another client at trial. The law firm did not state any reason for the shake-up, which follows Bannon’s fantasizing about putting Wray and Fauci’s “heads on pikes” as a warning to federal bureaucrats who do not bend to the president’s will. Social media companies quickly banned Bannon from their platforms, and ex-prosecutors warned that such remarks may have jeopardized Bannon’s bail as he awaits charges related to an alleged border-wall scam.
The Southern District of New York declined to comment on whether prosecutors will seek to revoke Bannon’s bail, but multiple alumni from that office found an upcoming motion likely.
“What I expect to see is that the prosecutors will move to revoke his bail,” Jaimie Nawaday, a former federal prosecutor from the district where Bannon is being prosecuted, told Law&Crime in a phone interview on Friday. “I don’t think they’ll be successful in having his bail revoked, but I would absolutely expect them to move for it.”
Attorney Elie Honig, another Southern District of New York (SDNY) alum and CNN legal analyst, concurred with that analysis.
“As a prosecutor, I’d certainly go right into court and seek to have him remanded — arguably he committed a crime by inciting violence,” Honig told Law&Crime in a direct message. “But he will counter that he wasn’t speaking literally and that it was a form (an outrageous form, of course) of political speech. So a prosecutor certainly should seek remand but I’m not entirely sure a judge would grant it.”
Echoing that sentiment, Nawaday said that the ex-Breitbart executive chairman’s penchant for the outrageous and the unreliable could counter-intuitively work in his favor.
“Guys like Bannon are so shameless and outrageous as a matter of course that they use that as a defense, just as Roger Stone did,” Nawaday noted, referring to the self-proclaimed dirty trickster whom Trump granted clemency shortly before he had to report to prison.
Before his trial and conviction, Stone posted an image of his presiding judge next to what appeared to be crosshairs, and he cast himself as a torch-carrier for the First Amendment when the stunt led prosecutors request to revoke his bail. Allowing him to remain free, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson slapped him with a limited gag order.
“For all the times that Roger Stone was scolded by the court and engaged in outrageous behavior while out on bail, he remained out,” Nawaday told Law&Crime. “And I think that’s what we’re going to see with Bannon. I think that he will say, ‘Come on! You know, I wasn’t serious. I wasn’t calling for anything specifically, right?'”
“It’s just sort of his outrageous antics defense,” Nawaday added.
Burck, now on the outs with his client, recently and successfully represented New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a high-profile prostitution case. The charges were dropped. Former White House counsel Don McGahn is also a Burck client.
Read the letter below:
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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