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Steve Bannon Says He’s Not Guilty Of Contempt, Because His Lawyer Told Him To Do It

Steve Bannon Says He’s Not Guilty Of Contempt, Because His Lawyer Told Him To Do It

Steve Bannon is prepared to defend himself against the charges of contempt brought when he refused to appear before the January 6th Committee. He’s moved from a position of smug defiance, to one of proclaimed innocence by way of ignorance, explaining that it wasn’t his decision and that he didn’t know defying the subpoena was illegal.

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 15: Steve Bannon, former advisor to President Donald Trump, addresses the media after an appearance at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse on contempt of Congress charges for failing to comply with a subpoena from the Committee investigating the January 6th riot, on Monday, November 15, 2021. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

According to CBS Bannon’s legal team has entered a filing in the case, explaining that he didn’t “willfully” defy the Congressional subpoena; that, rather, he was merely following the advice of his legal counsel, who told him that “he did not have the ability to waive executive privilege and he did not have the ability to discern what documents or communications were privileged, since that authority belonged to former President Trump,” the filing states.

Prosecutors have already addressed this in filings, stating that being given erroneous or inaccurate legal advice does not protect a defendant from the consequences of breaking the law.

Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, who he says gave him the advice to ignore the subpoena, had already pointed fingers in a different direction. A report by the Washington Post earlier this month notes that Costello said Bannon would have cooperated with the January 6th Committee upon court order to do so, but that until then, he was following the instructions of Donald Trump, who had instructed “top allies” not to participate in the investigation.

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EmptyWheel further points out the many Trump connections to Costello: he’s also defending Trump’s former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and there are conflicting accounts — both from Costello — in his own testimony to the Department of Justice regarding his contact with Trump’s lawyers. CNN also laid out in 2019 how Costello was involved in the alleged pardon-dangling for Michael Cohen, composing an email that told Cohen he could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places,” while Cohen faced prison for lying to Congress on Trump’s behalf.

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