A federal judge on Tuesday set the date for Steve Bannon’s high-stakes contempt of Congress trial to begin July 18, 2022.
Bannon, a onetime aide to former President Donald Trump, has refused to cooperate with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, defying a subpoena to produce records of his communications with the White House around that time and appear for a deposition.
In response, the House voted in late October to refer Bannon to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, which proceeded with two criminal charges. Wrapped up in the case are thorny questions of presidential power that have limited historical precedent.
D.C. prosecutors also indicated that they plan to block a key defense strategy ― that Bannon was acting on the advice of his attorneys, pending the result of a related lawsuit brought by Trump.
The former president is using executive privilege to shield himself from the committee, claiming that his conversations and records as president should be kept secret. Bannon has therefore asserted through his lawyers that he has no right to speak with the Jan. 6 committee until the courts reach a final decision on Trump’s suit. So far, the courts have regarded Trump’s arguments with a good deal of skepticism.
In a Monday court filing, prosecutors said they “anticipate filing a motion ... to exclude evidence and argument relating to any advice of counsel on the basis that it is not a defense to the pending charges.”
U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols ended up setting Bannon’s trial about midway between the dates suggested by his attorneys and government prosecutors.
Attorneys for Bannon had argued that the trial should begin in mid-October 2022, estimating that trial proceedings would stretch to around 10 days. In sharp contrast, prosecutors estimated that they would only need one day to present their side of the case, and suggested the trial begin no later than April 15.
Last week, a second Trump associate ― Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who helped push Trump’s election lies ― was also set on the path of referral for criminal charges, although the full House has yet to vote on his fate.
Meanwhile, Mark Meadows, who was serving as White House chief of staff at the time of the riot, indicated on Tuesday that he would stop cooperating with the committee after initially cooperating somewhat, likely setting up another House vote for contempt.