Highly publicized Jan. 6 House committee hearings have colored jury selection for the contempt of Congress trial of former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, which began Monday with his lawyers wading through a sea of candidates. the jury tainted by media coverage of the panel’s investigation.
The overwhelmingly liberal electorate in Washington has long put conservative defendants at a disadvantage when they stand trial in the nation’s capital, a dynamic that is potentially amplified for Bannon by the committee’s news coverage of January 6 and the riots. in the Capitol.
Of the dozens of potential jurors interviewed in the courtroom, about three said they were unaware of the House Jan. 6 committee. The jury pool included family and friends of Democratic staffers on Capitol Hill, dozens of enthusiastic consumers of left-leaning news media and at least one District resident who admitted he already knew Bannon was guilty.
Mr. Bannon, 68, faces two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for defying the committee’s demands that he produce records and appear for a plea, and could spend up to two years behind bars if convicted.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Bannon, who hosts the news and opinion show “War Room: Pandemic,” insists the charges against him are politically motivated and that the Democratic-controlled committee has conflicts of interest to discredit Republicans.
SEE ALSO: Jan. 6 House panel expects subpoenaed Secret Service texts soon, member says
Potential jurors were first selected through a questionnaire before being brought before US District Judge Carl Nichols to clarify questions from the prosecution and defense.
A recurring question was about the jury’s viewing of the committee hearings. Few said they hadn’t seen at least some of the hearings or read the news coverage of the proceedings, and several said the committee’s work shaped what they thought of Bannon.
A prospective juror who, describing himself as an “informed and responsible individual,” said he watched all of the committee’s hearings on MSNBC. He told the judge: “I think he is guilty.”
It was excluded after the comment.
Another potential juror whose friend worked as a staffer on Capitol Hill said he watched the committee hearings. The judge asked if he had talked to the staff member about the committee.
“We’re both in DC,” the man replied, explaining that the January 6 committee is something almost everyone in town discusses with friends.
SEE ALSO: Bannon Seeks Contempt Trial Delay Due to Media Coverage of Jan. 6 House Hearings
The committee held a series of hearings spanning June and July to reveal the findings of its nearly year-long investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, riots on Capitol Hill. The committee plans to hold its final hearing in the series with a prime-time television event on Thursday, which could coincide with Bannon’s trial.
Mr. Bannon’s legal team requested a delay in his trial last month in light of the “media blitz” surrounding the committee hearing. Evan Corcoran, Bannon’s attorney, said the fanfare infringes on his right to a fair trial without being tainted by outside findings and presuppositions formed from the public hearings.
“It would be impossible to guarantee Mr. Bannon a fair trial amid highly publicized Select Committee hearings purporting to convey investigative ‘findings’ on issues referenced in the Indictment,” the document states.
In the motion, which was denied, Mr. Corcoran noted that several of the findings produced by the committee at the hearings specifically referred to Mr. Bannon and issues important to his case without allowing him to respond.
Many of the prospective jurors were asked about the news coverage they received about the hearings and Mr. Bannon’s case.
A potential juror said they consumed coverage of the hearings from a variety of sources including PBS, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News. He referenced a video of Mr. Bannon at the committee’s last hearing in which he said that Mr. Bannon implied that “[Jan. 6] It was going to be an exciting day.”
She said, however, that she was not familiar with the legal requirements for submitting documents and testimony to the committee. She said that she was confident that she could remain impartial if she were selected to participate in Mr. Bannon’s trial.
That witness was not excluded from the final group.
Other potential jurors were asked about their perceptions of Mr. Bannon and whether they could remain impartial if they held opposing political beliefs.
“I guess my perception of him is that he’s a player in right-wing political circles,” said a potential juror, whose immediate family member worked for a Democrat in Congress.
That jury was excluded.
Another juror said he was “not a fan” of Mr. Bannon.