DOJ Ordered To Turn Over Documents About Why It Went After Steve Bannon

( )- Last week US District Court Judge Carl Nichols ordered the Justice Department to provide internal records related to its decision to prosecute Steve Bannon for contempt of Congress, handing Bannon a win.

During the 2-hour hearing, prosecutors argued that the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) guidance was not relevant to whether Bannon committed the crime he is charged with. However, Bannon’s lawyers emphasized that they advised him not to comply with the select committee’s subpoena because OLC opinions rendered the subpoena invalid.

Judge Nichols offered a hypothetical in which Congress subpoenaed Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain, but Klain refused to comply, citing OLC guidelines that say senior presidential advisers are “absolutely immune” from compelled congressional testimony. Nichols said under the DOJ’s argument in Bannon’s case, Klain could be prosecuted anyway.

The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel opinions limiting Congress’ ability to demand testimony from executive branch officials, though they carry no formal legal weight, have been roadblocks to lawmakers for decades. Trump used these opinions repeatedly to derail investigations into his administration. It is believed the Biden DOJ may have issued superseding opinions, however, these opinions haven’t been disclosed. Nichols’ order will require the DOJ to produce these documents to Bannon’s attorneys whether they are public or not.

These documents could shed some light on what nonpublic legal guidance the Biden DOJ used to permit the prosecution of Bannon for defying the select committee’s subpoena.

In the hearing, Nichols rejected several other requests by Bannon’s lawyers, including their request for evidence the DOJ obtained from the other people named “Robert Costello” who got swept up in the DOJ’s surveillance of Bannon’s lawyer’s emails and phone calls.

Nichols also rejected the defense’s request for help in obtaining internal select committee documents related to its decision to hold Bannon in contempt. He did say, however, that the defense may end up obtaining more information should the prosecution call any members of the select committee as witnesses.