Prosecutor: Bannon’s snub of congressional subpoena was a ‘choice’
WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors accused former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on Tuesday of willfully ignoring a congressional subpoena in open defiance of the U.S. government.
“It wasn’t optional. It wasn’t a request, and it wasn’t an invitation. It was mandatory,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn told jurors in her opening statement of Bannon’s contempt of Congress trial. “The defendant’s failure to comply was deliberate. It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a mistake. It was a choice.”
Bannon, a longtime adviser and strategist for former President Donald Trump, is facing two federal charges after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
But his lawyers argued Tuesday that the charges against him are politically motivated and that Bannon was engaged in goodfaith negotiations with the congressional committee when he was charged.
“No one ignored the subpoena,” Evan Corcoran told the jury.
In reality, he said, another one of Bannon’s then-lawyers, Robert Costello, contacted an attorney for the House committee to express some of Bannon’s concerns about testifying.
“They did what two lawyers do. They negotiated,” Corcoran said, adding that Bannon and his legal team believed “the dates of the subpoena were not fixed; they were flexible.”
An unofficial adviser to Trump at the time of the Capitol attack, Bannon, 68, is charged with defying a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee that sought his records and testimony. He was indicted in November on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress. Upon conviction, each count carries a minimum of 30 days of jail and as long as a year behind bars.
Clinic ends challenge: The Mississippi abortion clinic at the center of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade ended a lawsuit Tuesday in which it had sought to block the state from enforcing a law that bans most abortions.
Jackson Women’s Health Organization dropped its litigation a day after clinic owner Diane Derzis said she sold the facility and had no intention to reopen it, even if a state court allowed her to do so.
The Mississippi clinic — best known as the Pink House because of its bright paint job — stopped offering medication-induced and surgical abortions July 6, the day before Mississippi enacted a law that bans most abortions.
Mississippi was one of several states with a trigger law that went into effect after the Supreme Court ruling on June 24.
UK political race: The race to replace Boris Johnson as Britain’s prime minister entered an unpredictable endgame Tuesday as three candidates for Conservative Party leader were left battling for the two spots in a runoff vote.
Kemi Badenoch, a previously little-known lawmaker who has become a rising star of the party’s right wing, was eliminated from the contest after receiving the fewest votes from Conservative lawmakers in their fourth round of voting.
After the latest vote, former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak led the shrinking field of candidates and had all but
secured his place in the final pair. Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who were neck and neck behind him, will now scramble to woo Badenoch’s supporters before a final elimination vote Wednesday.
All are running to succeed Johnson, who quit as party leader this month after snowballing ethics scandals sparked mass resignations in his government.
The two finalists will go to a runoff vote by all 180,000 members of the Conservative Party, with a winner expected to be announced Sept. 5.
Ga. election probe: The Georgia prosecutor investigating whether former President Donald Trump and others illegally interfered in the 2020 general election in the state has informed 16 Republicans who served as fake electors that they could face criminal charges.
They all signed a certificate declaring falsely that then-President Trump had
won the 2020 presidential election and declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors, even though Joe Biden had won the state and a slate of Democratic electors was certified.
Eleven of them filed a motion Tuesday to quash their subpoenas.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last year opened a criminal investigation “into attempts to influence the administration of the 2020 Georgia General Election.” A special grand jury with subpoena power was seated in May at her request. In court filings earlier this month, she alleged “a multi-state, coordinated plan by the Trump Campaign to influence the results of the November 2020 election in Georgia and elsewhere.”
Willis’ office declined to comment on the motion to quash the subpoenas.
A lawyer for Willis’s office said in a court filing Tuesday that each of the 16 people who signed the
false elector certificate has received a letter saying they are targets of the investigation and that their testimony before the special grand jury is required.
Hackers disrupted: The FBI and Justice Department recently disrupted the activities of a hacking group that was sponsored by the North Korean government and that targeted U.S. hospitals with ransomware, ultimately recovering $500,000 in ransom payments and cryptocurrency, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Tuesday.
Monaco said a Kansas hospital that paid a ransom last year after being attacked by ransomware also contacted the FBI, which traced the payment and identified China-based money launderers who assisted the North Korean hackers in cashing out the illicit proceeds.
U.S. officials in 2021 scrambled to confront a wave of high-profile ransomware attacks — in
which hackers encrypt or lock up a victim’s data and demand exorbitant sums to return it — including against a crucial fuel pipeline on the East Coast.
South Africa bar deaths:
Methanol has been identified as a possible cause of the deaths of 21 teenagers at a bar in the South African city of East London last month.
The toxic chemical was found in all of their bodies and investigations are continuing to determine whether the levels were enough to have killed them.
Methanol is a form of alcohol used industrially as a solvent, pesticide or an alternative source of fuel. It is not used in the production of alcohol sold for human consumption.
It is yet not known how the youngsters ingested the methanol.
Many of the teens, ranging in age between 13 and 17, were found dead on June 26 in the tavern, with their bodies strewn across tables and couches.