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Trump-Appointed Judge Questions Prosecutors Over Collecting Steve Bannon Phone Logs

Trump-Appointed Judge Questions Prosecutors Over Collecting Steve Bannon Phone Logs

Steve Bannon, former advisor to then-president Donald Trump, is facing charges for contempt of Congress for his refusal to appear in response to a subpoena. Now a federal judge seems to feel prosecutors may have overstepped in their collection of information.

US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

According to Courthouse News, U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, a Trump appointee, pressed prosecutors over collecting phone and email logs that showed communication between Bannon and his attorney, Robert Costello, suggesting that even though the logs do not show the contents of the communications, only when they took place, it may still be a violation of attorney-client privilege. He’s ordering prosecutors to submit the records received from Comcast and Yahoo, as well as the requests submitted for them.

An EmptyWheel analysis in early February covered the relevance of some communication logs, pointing out that in interviews with the prosecutors investigating Bannon, Costello had contradicted himself about when his contacts had been with Trump’s attorneys. It also notes that Costello didn’t join Bannon’s defense team until after his indictment, possibly negating attorney-client privilege claims before that point.

According to the Washington Post, Bannon has contradictorily asserted that it was on Costello’s advice that he ignored the Congressional subpoena, with Costello citing Trump’s claims of executive privilege as a reason that former aides and advisors could not or should not appear in response to such a request to appear.

Nichols also suggested that the Justice Department’s refusal to pursue charges against a sitting President of the United States conferred a kind of immunity that could be perceived as continuing after ouster from office.

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“Isn’t there something anomalous, and I’m not sure what the legal hook for it is, for the Department of Justice to say someone has absolute immunity … and we will not prosecute them, and then to say those statements of [DOJ] official policy are irrelevant in such a prosecution?”

Bannon’s attorney has said that he intends for file a motion to dismiss the case.

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