It’s the next phase in the Passion of Steve Bannon.
The one-time political adviser to then-President Donald Trump is facing criminal charges for refusing to help the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. And he’s trying to use the case against him as a crusade to potentially expose whether the Biden administration’s White House or politically appointed leaders at the Justice Department were involved in the decision to go after him.
On Monday night, Bannon’s legal team and federal prosecutors filed a joint status report in his case that details the road ahead.
In the run-up to a trial sometime next year, Bannon’s lawyers plan to seek evidence from the White House and Justice Department that includes “documents reflecting the decision to charge Mr. Bannon,” according to the court filing.
The latest filing shows that federal prosecutors want to speed that up as much as possible, aiming to put Bannon on trial as early as April. That’s just six months from his Nov. 12 indictment, which would make the case a lightning-fast prosecution. Although the DOJ did not say so in its filing Monday night, the legislators who kickstarted this process have made clear they want to make an example out of Bannon to show that witnesses will be punished for defying congressional subpoenas.
The former Trump strategist is the most resistant witness yet faced by the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol earlier this year, when thousands of Trump supporters attempted to halt Congress from formally certifying Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Bannon, now a right-wing media personality, beat the war drum in the run-up to the event and has since called for the rejection of the legitimacy of the current American government. When he refused to show up before the bipartisan committee and testify behind closed doors—or even deliver requested documents—he was held in contempt of Congress and charged criminally.
Meanwhile, Bannon's lawyers say they are seeking to push the trial to October 2022—perhaps not coincidentally mere days before the midterm elections. That would fit snugly with Bannon’s overarching goal to politicize his case, or as he put it last month, turn it into the “misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.”
Former prosecutors and law school professors closely watching the case have already made clear that Bannon’s legal strategy appears to be to blow up the whole system.
Bannon’s lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran and David I. Schoen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite the relative rush to put him on trial, the government’s lawyers do admit that this case is unique. After all, it involves a former president claiming he still has the power to exercise executive privilege and keep his ex-employees from helping the current government conduct an investigation.
As the DOJ put it Monday night: “This case raises complex constitutional issues of first impression. Some of these issues involve inter-branch relationships and on the operations of the U.S. government at its highest levels.”