Update: Steve Bannon was convicted Friday afternoon on both contempt counts.
Original story appears below.
Steve Bannon, a top aide to former President Donald Trump, wants to know if the jurors in his contempt of Congress case watched Thursday night’s hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which included audio of statements he made regarding Trump’s post-election strategy in 2020.
“The nature and substance of the segment present a significant cause for concern regarding possible prejudice to Mr. Bannon’s constitutional fair trial rights and right to a jury trial if a juror viewed the segment of was made aware of it in some manner,” Bannon lawyers Evan Corcoran and David Schoen argued in a Notice Regarding Congressional Hearing filed on Friday morning.
The lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols to ascertain whether the jurors were somehow exposed to the contents of Thursday’s hearing and to Bannon’s comments specifically.
Bannon’s recorded remarks, reportedly made in October of 2020 to a group of associates, were first published in a July 12 story by Mother Jones.
“He’s going to declare victory,” Bannon is heard saying, reportedly on Oct. 31, 2020, just days before the election that Trump ultimately lost to President Joe Biden. “But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just going to say he’s a winner.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee, introduced the comments by recalling one of Trump’s most infamous lines from the 2016 race.
“At one point in 2016 when he was first running for office, Donald Trump said this: ‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters,'” Cheney said. “That quote came to mind last week when audio from Trump adviser Steve Bannon surfaced from Oct. 31st, 2020, just a few days before the presidential election. Let’s listen.”
Bannon’s voice was heard next. He said:
And what Trump’s going to do is declare victory, right? He’s going to declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner. He’s just going to say he’s a winner.
[ . . . ]
The Democrats — more of our people vote early that count. Theirs vote in mail. So they’re going to have a natural disadvantage, and Trump’s going to take advantage of it. That’s our strategy. He’s going to declare himself a winner. So when you wake up Wednesday morning, it’s going to be a firestorm.
[ . . . ]
Also if Trump is — if Trump is losing by 10:00 or 11:00 another night, it’s going to be even crazier. No, because he’s going to sit right there and say they stole it. If Biden’s winning, Trump is going to do some crazy shit.
“And of course, four days later, President Trump declared victory when his own campaign advisers told him he had absolutely no basis to do so,” Cheney said. “What the new Steve Bannon audio demonstrates is that Donald Trump’s plan to falsely claim victory in 2020, no matter what the facts actually were, was premeditated. Perhaps worse, Donald Trump believed he could convince his voters to buy it whether he had any actual evidence of fraud or not. And this same thing continued to occur from election day onward until Jan. 6.”
Bannon’s lawyers called the presentation a “highly inflammatory segment” and said that “the question arises as to whether jurors should be questioned about any exposure to the piece.”
According to the filing, Bannon’s lawyers had raised their concerns over the upcoming hearing on Thursday. Nichols addressed the matter “by reminding the jury once again not to watch TV, etc., consistent with the views of the defense that this would be the most prudent way to handle this development, rather than highlighting it and perhaps increasing the chances that, once highlighted, it would become a factor in a juror’s mind.”
Bannon’s legal team said that it believed that Nichols, a Trump appointee, “handled it in the most appropriate manner under all attending circumstances.”
In light of Nichols’ instruction, however, Bannon’s lawyers expressed their “associated concern” that jurors “might be reticent to acknowledge having seen the broadcast or having heard about or discussed it if she or he believes she or he might have run afoul of a rule and be in trouble with the Court.”
Bannon’s filing then appeared to attempt to reassure jurors that they wouldn’t get in trouble if they had somehow been exposed to Bannon’s comments aired during Thursday’s hearing.
“The Defendant respectfully requests, subject to the Court’s experienced view on how best to address the matter, that there should be some inquiry, while assuring the jurors of the importance of candor and that they will not suffer negative consequences if they acknowledge exposure to the broadcast or its subject,” Corcoran and Schoen wrote.
The argument from Bannon’s lawyers may have been undermined, however, by his own representatives’ response to the Mother Jones report.
“Nothing on the recording wasn’t already said on [Bannon’s podcast] War Room or on multiple other shows like The Circus on Showtime,” a Bannon spokesperson told the liberal publication at the time. “Bannon gave that lecture multiple times from August to November to counter [Democratic election lawyer] Mar[c] Elias’ Election Integrity Project.”
Bannon’s criminal contempt of Congress case is the first of its kind in decades. He has made multiple attempts to avoid and delay the trial, none of them successful. The defense rested its case against on Thursday after three days of trial. Closing arguments are expected to begin Friday.
As of press time, the DOJ had not filed a response to Bannon’s notice. However, the jury did begin deliberating.
Read Bannon’s filing below.
[Image via Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images.]
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