The Justice Department called out former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Sunday after the ex-Trump official requested the court lift the government’s protective order on the discovery material in his criminal contempt case and allow the documents to be made public.
In a 10-page court filing, prosecutors argued that the “real purpose” behind Bannon’s push to publicize the documents is to “abuse criminal discovery to try this case in the media rather than in court.”
The government reminded the court of Bannon’s previous vow to make the case “hell” for Attorney General Merrick Garland and to “go on the offense.”
Prosecutors also noted that Bannon’s legal team hadn’t raised a wholesale objection to the protective order during the court’s status hearing and previous discussions. Instead, the defense team blindsided prosecutors with its request last Wednesday, the government argued, using the public court filing — alongside a public statement to the Washington Post urging the public to “make their own independent judgment” as to whether the DOJ “is committed to a just result based upon all the facts” — as a vessel to complain about the case.
Prosecutors argued that letting Bannon release the documents would lead to witness tampering because it would expose witnesses to public commentary on their potential testimony pre-trial.
Additionally, the government stated, the discovery materials include personal background information on the witnesses who gave interviews, putting them directly in the firing line of Bannon’s threat to “go on the offense.”
Near the end of the filing, the prosecutors reiterated their belief that Bannon “wishes to have trial through the press,” and argued that therefore the court ought to establish a protective order.
Bannon has pleaded not guilty to contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with the House Jan. 6 select committee’s subpoena, citing “executive privilege” (despite the fact that he hadn’t worked at the White House for years before the Capitol insurrection).
Read the filing below: