Prosecutors have accused former President Donald Trump’s ex-adviser Steve Bannon of attempting to try his criminal case through the media instead of in court and have asked a judge to limit what Bannon can release publicly throughout the case, according to a new filing in DC District Court.
Bannon is trying to convince a judge not to bar him and his lawyers from sharing documents he receives from the Justice Department with the public before his trial.
The DOJ prosecutors said in the filing Sunday some of those records must stay private while the case is pending, because they include internal communications between congressional staffers and notes of FBI interviews with witnesses who could testify against Bannon at trial.
“Allowing the defendant to publicly disseminate reports of witness statements will have the collateral effect of witness tampering because it will expose witnesses to public commentary on their potential testimony before trial and allow a witness to review summaries of other witnesses’ statements recounting the same event or events,” the prosecutors wrote on Sunday.
Bannon is charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for failing to testify and turn over documents in response to a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack at the US Capitol. He has pleaded not guilty. The defense team and prosecutors are set to be back in court on December 7, when they’ll talk about a trial date and potentially discuss confidentiality issues in the case again.
It’s not publicly known what witnesses the FBI interviewed about Bannon.
In the new court filing, the prosecutors from the DC US Attorney’s Office, Amanda Vaughn, J.P. Cooney and Molly Gaston, especially take issue with Bannon speaking publicly about his case, including outside the court after his initial appearance, where he said his legal team would be on the offense and the charge against him would be “hell” for the Biden administration. The prosecutors also have said his lawyers didn’t take part in good-faith negotiations on a proposed confidentiality order in the case, as the judge overseeing the case had wanted.
“The defense’s misleading claims, failure to confer, unexplained wholesale opposition, and extrajudicial statements make clear the defense’s real purpose: to abuse criminal discovery to try this case in the media rather than in court,” the prosecutors wrote.