Jury selection in the criminal contempt trial of Steve Bannon, a one-time adviser and strategist to former President Trump, which began Monday, is set to extend into a second day as attorneys round up the tedious process of selecting non-biased jurors.
Bannon was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for his ten-month-long defiance of a subpoena issued by the bipartisan House panel probing the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol for his records and testimony.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols oversaw the selection of 22 tentative jurors — 12 men and 10 women — from an initial pool of 60 D.C.residents. The trial, which is expected to breeze through the court, will resume Tuesday morning, and lawyers for Bannon and the Justice Department will downsize the list to 14 jurors, two of which are alternates.
The often-laborious process of potential juror questioning unveiled stark assessments of the polarizing, Trump-allied defendant who vowed to make the criminal case a “misdemeanor from hell.”
Evan Corcoran, Bannon’s lawyer, pressed the juror candidates on their knowledge of his client, particularly whether they’ve written or said anything about Bannon and if they had opinions of the House Select Committee and its work. Many of the potential jurors admitted they’d heard little about the case, and some said they’d “taken in at least some of the select committee’s public hearings,” per CNN.
A juror candidate told Nichols that he’d find it “a challenge” to remain impartial. "I have formed an opinion about the case," the man said, looking towards Bannon. "The opinion is that Bannon is guilty." The acknowledgment saw the candidate promptly disqualified.
Another candidate was dismissed after deriding Bannon's pre-trial promise to “go full medieval” at the trial. “I felt that was a purely preposterous statement,” the male candidate said. “Pray for our enemies, because we’re going medieval on these people. We’re going to savage our enemies,” Bannon had declared on his “War Room” podcast Last Tuesday.
Although Bannon’s legal team had argued for a delay in the case at the pre-trial, citing the high coverage of the January 6 hearings, most of the would-be jurors said they hadn’t formed an opinion or knew little about the case.
Bannon attended the voir dire session mainly wearing black, but he never said a word in court, according to the Washington Post. It is also unclear whether the indefatigable Trump ally will testify in his own defense. Bannon lashed out at the select committees outside the courthouse, calling its hearings “a show trial.”
The committee presented evidence last week that Bannon and Trump spoke at least twice on January 5, 2021, the day before the Capitol assault. The committee also played a clip of Bannon saying on January 5 that "all hell is going to break loose tomorrow," remarks that the committee said he made after his first call with Trump.
Opening arguments in the trial are scheduled to begin Tuesday — soon after the number of jurors selected on Monday is whittled down to 14.
Bannon’s trial will go far in ascertaining Congress’ leverage when witnesses flout its subpoenas, as several Trump allies, including the former president himself, have done.
The select committee will hold its next prime-time hearing on Thursday night, and it is expected to hone in on Trump’s dereliction of duty on January 6.
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