When Steve Bannon was accused ofin September, the former Trump adviser claimed he was the target of a politically driven prosecutor.
Bannon said the Manhattan district attorney “decided to file false charges against me 60 days before the midterms,” implying that the criminal case against him was designed to sway the nation’s vote.
Trump has made similar claims about Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, publicly accusing him of bias over aagainst . But when lawyers for the Trump Organization said they might make a similar argument during the company’s recent trial, they were by the trial judge.
“I will in no way allow them to make a selective prosecution claim, or claim that this is some kind of novel prosecution,” Judge Juan Merchan said on September 12, limiting both sides in the Trump Organization trial to arguments. focused on the law.
That same judge is presiding over Bannon’s case, which is expected to go to trial in November 2023.
Bannon was indicted on September 8 for his role in a group that raised millions by promising to privately build a wall along the US-Mexico border, but allegedly pocketed the funds. Bannon had faced similar situationsin 2020 but it was during the last hours of his presidency. Presidential pardons do not apply to state charges, such as those brought by the Manhattan district attorney.
In the Trump Organization trial, two branches of the company wereon December 6 for a combined total of 17 counts related to criminal tax fraud. An attorney for the corporation, Susan Necheles, said the judge’s restriction not to argue political bias hampered the defense.
She said Bannon is likely to face similar limitations.
“These are political cases. They wouldn’t have come forward if they weren’t political cases, you know, and it’s like the elephant in the room,” Necheles said. “You’re not allowed to talk about it, but there’s a reason this case came up.”
Necheles noted that duringmany potential jurors, and some who were ultimately selected to decide the case, expressed strong views on Trump.
Just before opening remarks on October 31, Bragg praised Merchan, saying that he “runs an efficient courtroom.”
That was evident during early hearings in the Trump and Bannon Organization proceedings, when Merchan issued rulings designed to limit the defenses’ ability to prolong cases.
In the Trump Organization case, during a sometimes testy preliminary hearing on September 12, Merchan told Necheles and other lawyers that he was determined to start the trial on time.
“One of the accusations is that the defense is trying to stall, you know, it’s starting to feel a little bit like that,” Merchan said.
In Bannon’s case, Merchan has already rejected attempts to extend the time before trial.
On October 4, Bannon’s lawyers asked for a year to analyze four terabytes of data and documents collected by prosecutors before filing their first motions in the case. Merchan gave them four months. He laid out a timeline, including discovery, the process by which the two sides exchange information, that would have the case ready for trial in a year.
And in case Bannon’s side wants to get the discovery out there, there’s a cautionary note from the Trump Organization case you might want to heed: In a recently revealed decision from October 2021, Merchan held the company in contempt for Failure to comply with subpoenas from prosecutors. .
Bannon is scheduled to appear before Merchan on Monday morning for a hearing on the discovery. Contacted by phone, his attorney John Mitchell declined to discuss the hearing, saying he did not want to violate a judge’s order dated September 19, which broadly restricted public disclosure of information related to the discovery.
“I really don’t have the freedom to discuss these things. We have some pretty strict protection orders and I’m not entirely sure what I can say,” Mitchell said.