The Justice Department has already armed informal talks with Steve Bannon’s attorney to turn him into a witness against his own client. But now the right-wing provocateur is attempting to use the same FBI interviews to turn the tables on the January 6 committee.
This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) interfered in the ongoing criminal case against Bannon for “contempt of Congress,” with attorneys asking permission to make some needed clarifications before the federal judge overseeing Bannon’s case to be allowed. Pelosi wanted to defend the legitimacy of the committee’s congressional subpoena that started this whole mess — which Bannon ignored by refusing to appear before the panel and answer questions about his role in last year’s insurgency.
The committee is once again arguing over whether it can legally issue subpoenas, since congressional subpoena authority requires the consent of a senior member, and Bannon’s attorneys argue that the Jan. 6 committee vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R -WY), doesn’t count because it was Democrats, not Republicans, who gave her that position.
The top attorney in the House of Representatives has already written a legal paper outlining how Cheney will qualify as the senior member.
“Rep. Cheney is by definition the senior minority member because he is the first member of a minority party to be appointed to the select committee,” wrote attorney Douglas Letter, citing “the long-standing interpretation of the term by the House of Representatives.”
But Bannon’s attorneys are now picking up on something Letter told the FBI when he spoke to them on November 2, 2021.
According to an FBI summary of the interview with three special agents, “The letter explained that the select committee was specifically appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and there were no majority or senior members. Rep. Liz Cheney Recognized as Vice Chair Select Committee; as the select committee has a chair and a vice-chair, there are no explicit rules for the vice-chair as there are for a senior member.
On Thursday, Bannon attorney David Schoen told The Daily Beast that the stark contrast shows how the House of Representatives’ own counsel is undermining the legitimacy of the subpoena. And he noted that Letter spoke to FBI special agents who knew all too well that lying to federal law enforcement is a crime.
“His position on the rules is untenable,” Schoen said. “In this interview, he says unequivocally that there is no senior minority member on this committee. Of course he was 100 percent right. There is no senior minority member. It’s an art term. He knows what that means.”
The Republican Party attempted to make the same arguments about a missing senior minority member in March when it sued Pelosi to block the January 6 committee subpoenas. Those efforts failed when US District Judge Timothy J. Kelly dismissed the pertinent portions of the lawsuit. He concluded that “the court must bow to the select committee’s decision to treat Rep. Cheney as the most senior minority member.” As a junior federal judge, his judgment doesn’t bind other judges, but it shows that this move is pretty far-fetched.
However, that lawsuit never cited Letter’s contradictory claims in those FBI 302 forms, as those interview summaries are called. The question is now in court, where Bannon will soon be tried, and the outcome could be different. US District Judge Carl J. Nichols is currently considering whether to accept the amicus letter written by House counsel. And if it does, Bannon’s defense team will address the discrepancy.
When the amicus letter was publicly unveiled on Tuesday, a statement from Pelosi made no mention of the contrast. Instead, it focused on praising the Justice Department “for seeking to hold Bannon accountable for his blatant disregard of a lawful subpoena.”
“By addressing many of Bannon’s baseless arguments before the DC District Court, the House of Representatives continues to defend that constitutional authority as well as its essential prerogative to set its own rules and practices,” Pelosi said in a statement.
But even Pelosi’s attempt to intervene in Bannon’s criminal case is still politically entangled. According to congressional attorneys, the House of Representatives leadership couldn’t even agree on whether or not to present that legal letter to the federal judge. In a recent poll by the so-called Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group — consisting of Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA ) – the group was split along party lines. Both Republicans refused to sign the document, so House Democrats are essentially defending the January 6 committee on their own.
Although the institutional rules state that the five-member group of politicians “speak for and articulate the institutional position of the House of Representatives in all litigation,” McCarthy and Scalise refused to endorse the amicus brief “out of concern that it would damage institutional prerogatives.” Source.
For all the esoteric legal arguments at play now, the core facts of Bannon’s situation are pretty clear: He was ordered to testify and release documents, and he didn’t. And while he could have avoided this whole debacle by simply showing up and remaining silent, by asserting Fifth Amendment rights against self-discrimination, he has instead made himself a political martyr – while speaking openly about MAGA’s refusal to Crowd has discussed accepting the 2020 election results for his War Room Podcast.
These FBI interviews could feature prominently at a court hearing scheduled for later this month. It would be the second time FBI involvement in the case has attracted attention. As The Daily Beast revealed in March, the FBI has thrown out a questionable dragnet by secretly collecting a history of communications from another Bannon attorney, Robert Costello — in a way so sloppy it actually contained information about others Bob Costellos have absorbed in other states.
Last Friday, the DOJ announced that it had in fact always considered the attorney to be a witness to a crime.
In a court filing, federal prosecutors redoubled their aggressive — and rare — tactic of involving a criminal suspect’s attorney in their investigation.
“The defendant has elected to retain the same attorney who witnessed his crime in this case,” they wrote, saying their decision should not be construed as “that the prosecution somehow turned Mr. Costello into a witness — he already was. ”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/steve-bannon-is-using-an-fbi-interview-to-undermine-the-jan-6-panel?source=articles&via=rss Steve Bannon uses FBI interview to undermine January 6 panel