Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda R. Vaughn told Nichols that the government was ready to supply pretrial discovery and that “in our view, it’s a very straightforward case about whether the defendant showed up.” She was ready to set a trial date.
But Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran said that the case was likely to be far more complicated and that he did not want to agree to the prosecution’s standard protective order for discovery, which prohibits either side from releasing documents or evidence publicly.
“We’re just very concerned,” Corcoran said, “there would be the keeping from public view of documents where there is a compelling public interest in disclosure.”
Corcoran agreed to receive the documents and not disclose them publicly, and Nichols agreed not to enter a protective order until Corcoran had time to raise objections to withholding any of them from the public. Vaughn said there were “less than 20 documents” to be provided, most of which the defense already has because they involved Bannon’s correspondence with the House committee seeking his cooperation. Corcoran said there was likely to be a need for the defense to do further investigation to locate more documents and witnesses.
Nichols set a date of Dec. 7 for the parties to return and discuss the protective order and a trial date.
Bannon, like former president Donald Trump, has refused to comply with an order from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection to turn over records and testify about his actions leading up to the attack, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol trying to stop the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win.
Democrats and a handful of anti-Trump Republicans argue that the indictment was necessary to enforce subpoenas issued by the Jan. 6 committee to Trump associates who are resisting cooperation and to witnesses summoned by other congressional panels.
Bannon surrendered to federal authorities Monday and was released on personal recognizance after making his first court appearance that afternoon. He remained defiant as he entered the FBI field office in downtown Washington, saying: “I don’t want anybody to take their eye off the ball for what we do every day. … We’re taking down the Biden regime.”
In court Monday, Bannon appeared in a green barn jacket and black collared shirt before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather, who read the charges against him: two counts of contempt of Congress, each punishable by at least 30 days and up to a year in jail if convicted, and up to a $100,000 fine.
Prosecutors did not seek detention for a misdemeanor offense, and Bannon was released after swearing to comply with pretrial court supervision, including checking in weekly by phone and notifying the court of any travel outside the D.C. area. Afterward, he spoke outside the courthouse to reporters while protesters held up a sign saying “coup plotter” behind them.
“I’m telling you right now this is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden,” Bannon told reporters, referring the U.S. attorney general, the House speaker and the president. “We’re going to go on the offense on this and stand by.”
The committee wants to question Bannon about activities at the Willard hotel the night before the riot, when Trump supporters sought to persuade Republican lawmakers to block certification of the 2020 election results. The subpoena noted that Bannon predicted “hell is going to break loose” Jan. 6, and the committee’s report recommending that he be found in contempt said the comments indicated he “had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day.”
In declining to cooperate, Bannon’s attorney wrote to the committee in October saying that Trump lawyer Justin Clark had instructed Bannon not to respond and that Bannon would not cooperate pending a court order or a committee agreement with Trump.
Trump has maintained that he will deploy executive privilege claims to defy the House select committee’s requests, and over the weekend he released statements expressing his support for Bannon.