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Steve Bannon: Jury selection begins in trial of former top Trump lieutenant

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By Euronews  with AP
FILE - Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks with reporters after departing federal court on Nov. 15, 2021, in Washington.
FILE - Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks with reporters after departing federal court on Nov. 15, 2021, in Washington.   -   Copyright  AP Photo

Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Monday in the trial of Steve Bannon, a one-time senior adviser to former President Donald Trump. 

Bannon faces criminal contempt of Congress charges after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee investigating the insurrection at the US Capitol building on 6 January 2021.

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 9 July. Over a week ago, the former White House strategist notified the committee that he is now willing to testify. His lawyer, Robert Costello, said the change was because Trump has waived his executive privilege claim from preventing the testimony.

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 Trump’s claim of executive privilege.

Trump has repeatedly asserted executive privilege - even as a former president - to try to block witness testimony and the release of White House documents. In January, the US Supreme Court ruled against Trump’s efforts to stop the National Archives from cooperating with the committee after a lower court judge noted, in part, “Presidents are not kings.”

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

Bannon's lawyers tried to get the trial delayed, after claiming a CNN report about their client was prejudicial. But a district court judge declined their motion. 

While the judge allowed the trial to move forward, he left open the possibility that the letters about Trump waiving his privilege and Bannon's offer to cooperate with the committee could be referenced at trial, saying the information was “at least potentially relevant” to Bannon’s defense.

Legal analysts expect Bannon to claim that executive privilege stopped him from cooperating with the investigation earlier, but point out this is a hard argument to make since Bannon refused to even answer the subpoena to show up in front of the investigating committee.