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Defense for Bannon loses bid to slow-roll discovery review

A judge showed little concern for how long it will take Steve Bannon's lawyers to go through all of the government's evidence on the We Build the Wall fraud.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Lawyers for Steve Bannon complained to no avail Tuesday about the enormous amount of discovery that the government has produced against the previously pardoned conservative strategist.

“We’re both solo practitioners,” Alabama-based attorney David Schoen said of himself and his co-counsel. “There’s no possible way we can review the materials in three months.” 

Bannon faces charges of defrauding donors to We Build the Wall, a nonprofit that promised to fulfill the quixotic ambition of former President Donald Trump to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

We Build the Wall promised donors that 100% of their contributions would go toward construction, but it built just 3 miles of fencing with the $25 million it quickly raised on GoFundMe. The rest, according to charging papers, lined the pockets of Bannon and the other principals of the organization. Prosecutors said Bannon and U.S. Air Force Iraq War veteran Brain Kolfage alone used more than $1 million in We Build the Wall donations to pay for a boat, a 2018 Land Rover Range Rover, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery and other assets.

Bannon — unlike any of his co-defendants — escaped federal charges thanks to a presidential pardon from Trump on his last day in office. Such pardons apply only to federal crimes, not state offenses, however, and New York brought its own charges last month against the 68-year-old former Breitbart News executive chairman and White House strategist. He pleaded not guilty and was released on his own recognizance and surrendered his passport. 

Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan on Tuesday rejected the claim by Bannon's attorneys that they need 10 months to review the more than 4 terabytes of data that prosecutors have produced in discovery.

"Ten months is just not within the realm of reality,” he said, giving the defense four months instead.

Even on the faster timeline, Merchan suggested it will be at least a year before the start of Bannon's trial. He estimated the date as November 2023.

Bannon, who wore a slate-colored button-down shirt with three pens tucked into the front placket, did not speak at Tuesday’s proceeding, which lasted only around 15 minutes.

He was quite a bit more vocal at his arraignment last month. 

“This is what happens in the last days of a dying regime," Bannon told reporters on Sept. 8 as he entered the courtroom. "They’ll never shut me up. They’ll have to kill me first. I’ve not yet begun to fight.”

The six-count state indictment charges Bannon with two felony counts of money laundering, two counts of conspiracy and a felony count of scheming to defraud. If convicted, Bannon faces a maximum sentence between five to 15 years. We Build the Wall Inc., the company, is also charged in the indictment.

An attorney for We Build the Wall said the organization is unable to fund its defense, and that he may seek to withdraw as counsel. 

The group's other leader, Kolfage, pleaded guilty in April alongside Florida venture capitalist Andrew Badolato. Colorado businessman Tim Shea faced federal charges in connection to the fraud as well. His trial ended with a deadlocked jury

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