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Judge grills feds on surveillance of lawyer for Steve Bannon

The former senior Trump advisor told reporters on Wednesday that the government's behavior has been "outrageous."

WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal judge questioned Wednesday why prosecutors targeting Steve Bannon secretly logged his attorney’s phone and email records while building their case to charge the former Trump adviser with contempt of Congress.

“Why is that an appropriate first move?” asked U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, Trump appointee.

The judge ordered the government to turn over by March 18 the requests to companies including Yahoo and Comcast, as well as the records that were produced, for the judge’s private review.

During the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rose Vaughn said the government needed attorney Robert Costello’s records to confirm that he indeed told Bannon last September about a subpoena from the House of Representatives calling for Bannon to provide records about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and appear for deposition. Bannon never complied with the subpoena.

“Costello is the intermediary here,” she said. “It’s possible Costello never fully communicated what was … here.”

Vaughn also pointed out that the government received only a log of Costello’s emails, phone calls and text messages — not the actual contents.

Costello said during Wednesday’s hearing, however, that, regardless of what the records contained, the mere action of obtaining them “still interferes with the attorney-client relationship.”

“If you allow this office to do what they did to me to every other lawyer in the system … then no lawyer in his right mind is ever going to accept service of process,” Costello warned the judge.

After the hearing, Bannon told reporters outside the courthouse that “the behavior of the FBI and, quite frankly, [Department of Justice] has been outrageous to my attorney and the attorney-client privilege.”

“Everything that was in the background of this, everything that went to the grand jury — everything ought to come out,” he said. “The media ought to have — the American people ought to have — access to all the information about this.”

He added that: “It’s in your interest, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Bannon is charged with two misdemeanor counts of criminal contempt of Congress. After pleading not guilty in November, the Trump ally promised to take down the Biden "regime."

He is among several affiliates of former President Donald Trump who have declined or defied subpoenas from the committee, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Bannon’s case will serve as a test of Congress’ power as it attempts to enforce consequences on witnesses who refuse to comply with its subpoenas.

The former Trump strategist’s legal team said on Wednesday that they are planning to file a motion to dismiss the case by April 18 — three months before the trial is scheduled to begin.

Follow @EmilyZantowNews
Categories / Criminal, Government, Law

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