Ex-Trump aide Bannon to seek dismissal of criminal contempt of Congress charges

Bannon, 68, has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress for defying the committee's subpoena requesting testimony and documents as part of its inquiry into January 6.

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon boards a vehicle as US President Donald Trump prepares to depart Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, US, April 9, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)
White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon boards a vehicle as US President Donald Trump prepares to depart Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, US, April 9, 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)

Former President Donald Trump's adviser Steve Bannon will ask a federal judge on Thursday to dismiss criminal charges alleging he willfully defied a subpoena by a congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

Evan Corcoran, one of Bannon's defense attorneys, notified US District Judge Carl Nichols of his plans to seek to have the charges dismissed on Wednesday, shortly after the prosecution rested its case.

Bannon, 68, has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress for defying the committee's subpoena requesting testimony and documents as part of its inquiry into the January 6, 2021, rampage by Trump supporters trying to overturn his election defeat.

It is unclear whether Bannon's team will put on a defense or call any witnesses.

A possible witness could include Robert Costello, Bannon's attorney who served as the key point of contact between Bannon and the committee after it served him with its September 2021 subpoena.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends the National Front party convention in Lille, France, March 10, 2018 (credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS)Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon attends the National Front party convention in Lille, France, March 10, 2018 (credit: PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS)

The witnesses

The government only presented two witnesses in its case over two days of testimony.

The first was Kristin Amerling, a senior committee staff member, who testified that Bannon disregarded the subpoena's two deadlines, sought no extensions and offered an invalid rationale for his defiance - a claim by Trump involving a legal doctrine called "executive privilege" that can keep certain presidential communications confidential.

The other prosecution witness was FBI special agent Stephen Hart, who investigated the circumstances of Bannon's defiance of the subpoena.

On Wednesday, the judge let the defense inform jurors that Trump earlier this month gave the green light for Bannon to testify before the House of Representatives select committee after previously asking him not to cooperate.

The judge also allowed him to introduce other recent correspondence between Bannon and the committee related to Bannon's abrupt offer to testify.

But Nichols told jurors they cannot consider Bannon's belief about executive privilege as an excuse or consider future offers of compliance as a defense against prior non-compliance.

Bannon's primary defense is that he believed the subpoena's return dates were flexible and subject to negotiation between his attorney and the committee.

Amerling testified on Wednesday that the deadlines were not flexible and said Costello had never sought any extensions on his client's behalf.

Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol and attacked police in a failed effort to block formal congressional certification of his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, which Trump falsely claims was the result of fraud.

Bannon was a key adviser to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, then served briefly as his chief White House strategist in 2017.