Steve Bannon Appears Prepared to Use Public Authority Defense in Court

Steve Bannon Is Preparing to Use Public Authority Defense in Court

( – On November 15, 2021, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon gave himself up to federal officials for refusing to cooperate with the January 6 House Select Committee. The former Trump official faces two contempt charges for defying a congressional subpoena and refusing to provide requested documents to the committee. On Friday, April 15, Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys filed a court document that appears aimed at preventing Bannon’s legal team from using a Public Authority Defense.

The DOJ’s Criminal Resource Manual discusses three affirmative defenses involving public authority:

  1. A defendant claims to honestly but mistakenly believe they committed crimes in an indictment in cooperation with the federal government.
  2. A defendant knew they were committing a criminal act but did so with permission from a government official.
  3. Entrapment by estoppel — a defendant believes the government made errors, convincing them they were acting within the law and reasonably believed government officials sanctioned their conduct.

Bannon’s lawyers appear prepared to argue #2, saying that former President Donald Trump issued a grant of authority to withhold the information from Congress under executive privilege. They have previously clamed that Bannon refused to comply with them because former President Donald Trump asserted executive privilege over several subpoenas issued by the January 6 Select Committee.

However, court documents filed by federal prosecutors stated that Bannon wasn’t subpoenaed “in relation to his time as an Executive Branch official” under Trump. As a result, he doesn’t have any claim to executive privilege justifying his defiance of Congressional requestions.

The former Trump adviser has pleaded not guilty to the two charges. If convicted by a jury, he could face a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and up to 12 months in federal prison.

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