The Justice Department has rejected Steve Bannon’s defense argument that he relied upon Trump’s authority when he refused to comply with the House Select Committee’s subpoenas for written and oral testimony related to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The former Trump chief strategist was indicted last November after he spurned the subpoenas and the House of Representatives referred the matter for prosecution. After his claim of “executive privilege” was rejected, Bannon’s counsel said his client intends to invoke a so-called public authority defense.
However, the Department of Justice rejected those arguments, noting that Trump was not president at the time Bannon defied the subpoena.
“[T]he former President was not a government official at the time of the defendant’s default, and the defendant fails to identify any Department of Justice official with whom he consulted on his decision to default, much less one who authorized him to do so,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda R. Vaughn wrote in a Friday filing.
In a similar tactic, Bannon has asserted an “entrapment-by-estoppel” defense, a phrase for a criminal prosecution against someone who relied on statements made by a government official charged with “interpreting, administering, or enforcing the law defining the offense.”
Prosecutors say that this defense also fails because the government “never sanctioned” Bannon’s conduct.
Donald Trump has consistently tried to deflect subpoenas related to Jan. 6 attacks—and encouraged his associates to do the same—by asserting executive privilege.
But President Joe Biden rejected Trump’s privilege claims, and federal courts have done the same.
If convicted on the two misdemeanor charges leveled against him, Bannon can face up to one year in jail on each count. Each count also carries a fine up to $100,000.
Bannon was able to dodge an unrelated criminal prosecution for allegedly defrauding donors in the charity “We Build the Wall” through a last-hour pardon from Trump.
Read the DOJ’s filing, below: