Blue State Blues: The Bannon Trial Is a Farce

Stephen K. Bannon (Anna Moneymaker / Getty)
Anna Moneymaker / Getty

The trial of Stephen K. Bannon is a farce in which the federal judiciary is validating an unlawful, unconstitutional, McCarthyist witch hunt that is violating due process and civil liberties for the purposes of destroying the political opposition.

I hold no special brief for Bannon, who left Breitbart News more than four years ago. I also opposed the January 6 protest — not just the riot, but the peaceful part — in advance, because I believed Congress could not reject an Electoral College vote.

What I find alarming about the Bannon trial is that after the defense was barred from bringing up the legal problems with the subpoena Bannon was issued, Judge Carl Nichols allowed the prosecution to make a case about the validity of the subpoena.

The first prosecution witness, Kirsten Amerling, is the chief counsel for the January 6 Committee. She was not just called as a fact witness, but specifically to offer her legal opinion about the subpoena — a task that properly belongs to Judge Nichols.

While Amerling was allowed to testify that, in her view, the subpoena was urgent, the defense was not allowed to ask if it was validly issued at all, given that Democrats barred certain Republicans from the committee, which has no ranking member.

Recall that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rejected the minority’s chosen ranking member, Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), as well as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) — the first time in history the majority has denied the minority the right to choose its representatives.

Pelosi did that for two reasons. First, she did not want Republicans, much less supporters of former President Donald Trump, to have strong, effective dissenting voices. Second, Democrats intended to call Jordan and other Republicans as witnesses.

Democrats wanted to implicate them in a “coup,” when all they did was what committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and other members of the committee once did: object to the certification of Electoral College votes from certain states.

The result is that the committee lacks the requisite number of members — seven Democrats and two anti-Trump Republicans, rather than eight Democrats and five Republicans, and has no ranking member, as Thompson himself has admitted publicly.

Without a ranking member, according to House rules and to the committee’s own enabling resolution, the committee cannot issue subpoenas to compel witnesses to provide testimony or documents. This is a vital protection against abuses of power.

Nevertheless, Democrats have held depositions, under threat of prosecution, behind closed doors, selectively editing what the public can see — often distorting what witnesses have said, even cooperative ones, damaging their reputations and rights.

Judge Nichols apparently believes that Congress can do what it likes with its own committees — that the Political Question Doctrine and separation of powers prevent the courts from interfering in the internal deliberations of the legislative branch.

However, in this case the January 6 Committee is, in effect, asking the executive branch to play a role in legislative affairs by enforcing its subpoenas — subpoenas issued issued by a partisan, one-sided committee that has flouted witnesses’ civil rights.

Moreover, the executive branch, through the Department of Justice, has created the impression of a double standard by prosecuting Bannon for contempt after letting Democrats like Eric Holder and Lois Lerner evade prosecution in the past.

Prosecutors cannot explain why they are targeting Bannon (or Trump adviser Peter Navarro), other than citing social media posts by Bannon on Gettr. In effect, Bannon and Navarro are being targeted for speaking everywhere but to the committee.

Yet that only highlights the fact that the information the committee seeks is largely publicly available. Navarro has spoken about January 6 to the media; Bannon did so on his podcast.

If any laws were broken, the DOJ itself can compel testimony. It does not need to hide behind a partisan Star Chamber or a Stalinist show trial whose aim is political, i.e. to prevent Trump from running in 2024.

The January 6 Committee presented what was supposed to be its final public hearing on Thursday. It was a one-sided and propagandistic presentation — one that made several provably false claims and quietly retracted earlier, sensational ones.

Toward the end, Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) implied that Trump is a domestic enemy of the United States. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) said Trump should never hold office again. That is the true goal of the committee: to take that choice away from voters.

The Bannon trial sets a horrific precedent: that the majority can abuse its power, with judicial approval.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.