Judge: Bannon can argue to throw out contempt charges after conviction
(The Hill) – A federal judge on Wednesday said he would give Stephen Bannon’s lawyers an opportunity to argue for the dismissal of criminal contempt of Congress charges, of which the former Trump White House adviser was convicted by a jury last week.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols denied Bannon’s motion for an outright acquittal on the charges but said in a brief order Wednesday that he would allow the defense team to further argue their motion to dismiss the indictment after they were prevented from calling members of the House Jan. 6 select committee to testify at last week’s trial.
Nichols said he “would benefit from further briefing” on the issue and ordered Bannon’s lawyers to submit a filing by Aug. 5.
The judge had previously denied the defense team’s motion to allow testimony from all nine members of the select committee at trial. But he expressed reservations about the decision and indicated in recent weeks that he would be willing to revisit the matter.
The constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause generally shields members of Congress from being compelled to testify in court proceedings. Bannon’s lawyers argued earlier this month that immunity is in tension with Bannon’s constitutional rights as a criminal defendant in a case over whether he unlawfully defied a committee subpoena.
“Mr. Bannon respectfully argues that because [select committee members] set in motion the prosecution of Mr. Bannon, they should not have been allowed to retreat behind the Speech or Debate Clause when evidence of their actions (and their testimony concerning the same) are directly relevant to Mr. Bannon’s charges, and essential to securing his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights,” Bannon’s lawyers wrote in a filing earlier this month.
The defense team has argued Bannon was denied a fair trial when Nichols foreclosed the possibility of subpoenaing lawmaker testimony. They declined to call any witnesses to testify before a jury last week.
The jury convicted Bannon on two contempt counts after hearing from just two witnesses during the weeklong trial. They spent less than three hours deliberating before reaching a verdict on Friday.