While the Justice Department investigated right-wing media provocateur Steve Bannon for refusing to testify before the House Jan. 6 Committee, his team says federal prosecutors quietly got his lawyer’s email and phone records—a rare move that may have crossed the line.

Bannon’s legal team got the evidence last month but made the revelations in court filings Friday evening, calling it “outrageous and inappropriate government conduct.”

“The undersigned counsel were shocked to learn, upon accessing these documents, that almost all of the documents reflected efforts by the government to obtain telephone records and email records from the personal and professional accounts of defense counsel, Robert J. Costello, Esquire,” Bannon’s legal team wrote.

These kinds of spy tactics are sure to raise public concern, because prosecutors don’t usually spy on a target’s own lawyer. The court filings allege that prosecutors started getting the records they’d requested just a week after Bannon was indicted on criminal contempt charges in November for refusing to testify before the congressional panel, which is examining the circumstances of the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building last year.

The Justice Department seemed to have acknowledged engaging in that surveillance in a letter it wrote to that legal team on Jan. 7 this year, when it said Costello is “a witness to the conduct charged in the indictment,” ostensibly because he had been advising Bannon not to talk to the committee. Bannon refused for weeks, claiming that former President Donald Trump had retained some sort of “executive privilege” leftover from his time at the White House—a bogus legal theory that was rejected by a federal judge, an appellate panel, and ultimately didn’t sway the Supreme Court.

In the letter to Bannon’s legal team, federal prosecutor Amanda R. Vaughn let them know that the Justice Department also considers another lawyer who was giving Bannon advice, Adam Katz, a witness.

FBI agents tried to get incoming and outgoing phone call logs and records showing who Costello texted, according to Bannon’s side.

The Friday evening court filings also show that, as The Daily Beast revealed in December, Bannon is indeed using his case as a fishing expedition into the Biden White House and the Justice Department—a tactic that’s aimed at poisoning the investigation while simultaneously generating additional media attention. His lawyers are seeking any records at the Justice Department headquarters and the White House that would show a politically driven plot to harm Bannon himself.

His lawyers asked for any documents that “reference making an example of Mr. Bannon, punishing him, hoping to influence or affect the conduct of other potential witnesses before the Select Committee, or words of similar meaning and effect.”

Bannon is being represented by two attorneys in his criminal contempt case: former federal prosecutor M. Evan Corcoran and David I. Schoen, who represented Trump during his second impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.