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Federal prosecutors were forced to admit on Wednesday that they spied on former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s attorney without getting approval from President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice before doing so.
In a win for Bannon, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the Justice Department has to produce internal records related to their decision to prosecute him for contempt, according to the Daily Mail.
U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols was deeply troubled by the actions of the Department of Justice and asked prosecutors why they decided to clandestinely gather the records of defense attorney Robert Costello’s private phone calls, text messages, and emails.
Nichols went on to say that Bannon’s legal team should receive for review the Justice Department’s “statements or writings” that justify charging him with contempt of Congress since there is a precedent of former presidential advisers being immune to subpoenas.
BREAKING REPORT: Federal prosecutors admit they SPIED on Steve Bannon WITHOUT APPROVAL from Biden's DOJ…
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) March 18, 2022
The lead prosecutor in Bannon’s case, Amanda Vaughn, tried to justify their actions claiming her team “never sought content of any communications” and instead sought “toll records” to determine who Costello was calling, writing, or texting and when the communications took place. The prosecutors described their efforts as “appropriate investigative steps, in part relying on intelligence from law enforcement databases.”
“As is commonplace in investigations, some of those steps did not yield relevant information, and the Government’s understandings evolved as its investigation progressed,” the filing read. “Such twists and turns are common in any investigation.”
The move could potentially violate attorney-client privilege protections. Vaughn contended that the DOJ wanted to verify that Bannon was relying on the advice provided by his counsel when he refused to testify before the Jan. 6 committee in October.
In court filing this morning in his criminal contempt of Congress case…. Steve Bannon argues the Justice Dept has demonstrated "unparalleled arrogance and is extraordinarily disingenuous" pic.twitter.com/lj8b5ofcsy
— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) March 15, 2022
Meanwhile, Bannon’s attorneys argue that he did not meet the definition of “willful” contempt because he was relying on the advice of counsel.
Bannon’s attorneys told him not to testify based on opinions published by the White House Office of Legal Counsel that state senior presidential advisers are “absolutely immune” from compelled congressional testimony.
Prosecutors contend that the OLC opinions are not relevant to the contempt-of-congress charges.
The federal prosecutors admitted in the filing that they went to telecoms companies to demand Costello’s records. That, evidently, does not require they get approval from within the DOJ upper echelons. They didn’t bother asking Costello for the records.
Politico: Federal judge orders the DOJ to produce internal records related to its decision to prosecute Steve Bannon, a win for the former Trump adviser, who maintains that he had a sound legal basis for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the 1/6 committee.
— THE BIAS (@thebias_news) March 18, 2022
Evan Corcoran and David Schoen, who are attorneys for Bannon, were shocked over the revelation.
“That… is absurd on its face. There is a special relationship between an attorney and their client,” Schoen told Nichols. “Hopefully the inspector general sees things differently.”
“What on Earth were they going to tell from the records? They knew he was communicating [with Bannon,]” Schoen noted. “I think what happened is outrageous.”
Bannon and his legal team filed a 26-page motion last week to “compel disclosure” of the government’s efforts to obtain Costello’s records.
They asserted that the prosecution was “beyond reckless,” and that the records obtained “were all for another completely uninvolved citizen apparently named Robert Costello or Robert M. Costello. In fact, not one of the email accounts the Government sought access to in this case, intending to get defense counsel’s emails, actually was defense counsel’s email account.”
The judge remarked that he would not blame Bannon’s team for wanting the investigators reprimanded or referred to a watchdog agency for their actions.
“The behavior of the FBI and, quite frankly, DOJ has been outrageous to my attorney and the attorney-client privilege,” Bannon declared while standing outside the courtroom Wednesday.
“Everything that was in the background of this, everything that went to the grand jury. Everything ought to come out,” he proclaimed.
Bannon went on to state that his contempt case really has “nothing to do” with Jan. 6. He is instead focusing on taking down President Joe Biden.
“What is essential to my work is taking down the illegitimate regime of the Biden administration and I do it every day,” he told reporters. “I do not consider them legitimate. I’ve stated this many times. I think the election on November 3rd was stolen and I’ve gone at publicly day after day after day.”
A clarion call for the America first populist movement from my friend, mentor and national hero Steve Bannon. I’m with you until the end brother. God Bless America! #FreeBannon #KangarooCourt pic.twitter.com/BhN47LrO9D
— Royce White 🇺🇸 (@Highway_30) March 16, 2022
Bannon pleaded “not guilty” to the contempt charge in November. He also vowed to make the case a “misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.”
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