News Jury selection to begin in trial for one-time Trump adviser Steve Bannon
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Jury selection to begin in trial for one-time Trump adviser Steve Bannon

Former Trump aide Steve Bannon was indicted in November for criminal contempt of the US Congress. Photo: AP
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Jury selection is scheduled to begin in the trial of Steve Bannon, a one-time adviser to former US president Donald Trump.

Mr Bannon faces criminal contempt of Congress charges after refusing for months to co-operate with the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.

Mr Bannon is charged in Washington’s federal court with defying a subpoena from the January 6 committee that sought his records and testimony.

He was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, one month after the Justice Department received a congressional referral.

Each count carries a minimum of 30 days of jail and as long as a year behind bars.

The trial follows a flurry of activity in the case since July 9.

More than a week ago, the former White House strategist notified the committee that he is willing to testify.

His lawyer Robert Costello said the change was because Mr Trump has waived his executive privilege claim from preventing the testimony.

Mr Bannon, 68, had been one of the most prominent of the Trump-allied holdouts in refusing to testify before the committee.

He has argued that his testimony is protected by Mr Trump’s claim of executive privilege.

Mr Trump has repeatedly asserted executive privilege – even as a former president – to try to block witness testimony and the release of White House documents.

The Supreme Court in January ruled against Mr Trump’s efforts to stop the National Archives from co-operating with the committee after a lower court judge noted, in part, “Presidents are not kings”.

The committee has also noted that Mr Trump fired Mr Bannon from the White House in 2017 and Mr Bannon was thus a private citizen when he was consulting with the then-president in the run-up to the riot.

US District Judge Carl Nichols declined motions to delay the trial in separate hearings last week, including Thursday when Mr Bannon’s lawyers raised concerns about a CNN report that has since aired about their client and what they said were prejudicial comments made during a hearing last week held by the House committee investigating the riot.

“I am cognisant of current concerns about publicity and bias and whether we can seat a jury that is going to be appropriate and fair, but as I said before, I believe the appropriate course is to go through the voir dire process,” Judge Nichols said on Thursday, referring to the questioning of individual jurors before they are selected.

The judge said he intended to get a jury that “is going to be appropriate, fair and unbiased”.

While the judge allowed the trial to move forward, Judge Nichols left open the possibility that the letters about Trump waiving his privilege and Bannon’s offer to co-operate with the committee could be referenced at trial, saying the information was “at least potentially relevant” to Bannon’s defence.

Roscoe Howard Jr, the former US attorney in Washington, said the best case for Mr Bannon is if the information on his co-operation offer gets to the jury.

Even if it does, claiming that executive privilege stopped him from co-operating earlier will be a hard argument to make because Mr Bannon refused to answer the subpoena, Mr Howard said.

“You have to show up to invoke the privilege claim. You can’t phone it in,” he said.

Jury selection begins on Monday.

-AP