So the DOJ is now revealing in court filings that it previously interviewed Donald Trump’s lawyer and determined that Trump never granted Bannon executive privilege to begin with. The DOJ also claims in a filing that Bannon’s lawyer lied to the January 6th Committee. As I said when Bannon first offered to testify, if he’s just playing games, he’s only making it worse for himself.
Because the DOJ has proof Trump never gave Bannon executive privilege, Trump’s new letter waiving that “privilege” could potentially be seen as obstruction. Trump and Bannon conspired to mislead investigators into believing that Trump had previously granted Bannon privilege.
The DOJ is also handing a big piece of leverage to the 1/6 committee, which can now use the credible threat of a criminal referral against Bannon’s lawyer to pressure him into cooperating. Attorney client privilege does not apply if attorney and client criminally conspired.
This also helps explain why Bannon’s lawyer recently had to announce he would no longer be representing Bannon in this criminal trial. As so often happens in Trump world, Bannon’s lawyer now needs a lawyer.
So where does this leave us? The DOJ is telling the court that it’s not taking Bannon’s testimony offer seriously, and is asking the judge to keep the stunt from the jury. So unless Bannon actually gives the 1/6 committee something of value, this is over. Predictably, Bannon hasn’t accomplished anything with this nonsensical last minute desperation move.
The only real question is whether there’s a point at which Bannon will realize he’s screwed, and that he’s indeed heading to prison, and cut an actual cooperation deal against Trump. Perhaps if he’s convicted this month at trial, he’ll get to that mindset. But short of legitimate cooperation, this is not helping him any. And the DOJ’s response suggests Bannon has merely made his legal situation even worse.
The movies have taught us that when someone has exhausted all viable options and tries a last minute desperation stunt, it usually works. But in the real world, such desperation stunts just tend to make things even worse for that person.
Even though the DOJ is rather aggressively laughing at Steve Bannon’s offer, the January 6th Committee could still decide to poke and prod him to see if he really is ready to provide legitimate cooperation. Keep in mind that the committee is working with a lot more detailed information about this Bannon stunt than we have available to us, so based on its smart and savvy track record, I trust the committee to handle Bannon wisely. There’s no need to waste time fretting about the committee getting played. These are not naive or gullible people.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report