Politics

Jan. 6 panel flat-out rejects Bannon’s bid to obstruct its inquiry as Trump files lawsuit

Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, maintains that his client was contacted by a lawyer for Donald Trump, who instructed them to ignore the committee’s subpoena in accordance with Trump’s executive privilege claim.

In Thompson’s response Friday, he said Trump had made no such “assertion of privilege” to the panel and that Trump’s stated intention to make a claim that “may or may not belong to him” provides no legal basis for Bannon’s refusal to comply. Last Thursday, Bannon skipped a scheduled deposition with the panel.

On Monday, Trump filed a lawsuit in the D.C. District Court suing the select committee and the National Archives in order to block disclosure of the records from his tenure under an executive privilege claim. President Joe Biden has rejected Trump’s assertion of privilege over the first group of about 40 documents being held at the National Archives. 

Legal experts typically laugh off both Trump’s and Bannon’s claim as wildly out-of-touch with the law.

Charles Cooper, who regularly represents Republicans and conservative causes, told the Post that Bannon’s assertion was “utterly without merit.” Not only does the power to invoke executive privilege belong to the sitting president (not the former guy), Bannon falls outside the bounds of such a claim, even it were properly asserted.

“The overarching point is that the president’s immunity from congressional subpoena extends only to his closest Oval Office advisers, and Bannon clearly did not qualify at the time of his communications with President Trump about the election,” Cooper said. Bannon was forced out of his post in Trump’s White House all the way back in 2017.

Even conservative legal gadfly Jonathan Turley effectively dismissed Bannon’s privilege claim out of hand.

“Bannon is in the weakest position to refuse compliance with the subpoena as a private citizen — he has the most tangential claim to being protected by executive privilege,” said Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

When someone like Bannon loses Turley, it’s pretty much over.

But how long the process takes to play out, particularly in light of Trump’s court filing, remains to be seen. Bannon’s defiance of the subpoena could carry a criminal penalty of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, depending on whether the Justice Department chooses to prosecute.

Among those keeping a close eye on Bannon’s fate will be three other subpoenaed Trump allies who were actually serving in the administration at the time of the Jan. 6 attack: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and former national security and Defense Department aide Kash Patel. So far, they have reportedly been engaging with the committee, presumably in an effort to stay in its good graces as they watch how things play out with Bannon.




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