July? F%$#ing July?

A federal judge on Tuesday set a July trial date for Stephen K. Bannon, the former Trump White House adviser indicted last month for refusing to testify before the Jan. 6 congressional committee.

In scheduling the trial for July 18, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols settled one early legal battle. But he deferred ruling on whether Bannon can make documents turned over by the Justice Department in his case public even if they are not relevant to his litigation — a move supported by news organizations citing First Amendment grounds.

At a combative hour-long hearing, Nichols refereed a case the former Trump aide has vowed to turn into a legal brawl, pledging after he was charged to make it “the misdemeanor from hell” for President Biden, his administration and top Democrats.

………

Prosecutors proposed a one-day trial in April to answer what they suggested was an open-and-shut question of whether Bannon, 67, was guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress — each punishable by at least 30 days and up to a year in jail if convicted — for refusing to testify and turn over documents after receiving a Sept. 23 congressional subpoena.

………

Bannon’s defense countered by asking Nichols for a 10-day trial in October — beginning just before next year’s midterm congressional elections. They predicted filing a blizzard of pretrial motions in July to dismiss the case and dig out internal communications from the House, White House and Justice Department to expose what they called a political vendetta behind the “unprecedented” decision to criminally charge an adviser to a former president who had invoked executive privilege.

While reluctant to say he was splitting the difference, Nichols called an October trial “too slow” and an April date unrealistic, noting that whether the defense arguments “have merit or not, they still have to be decided.”

“Seven or eight months is still a long time in the arc of a criminal case,” Nichols said, but appropriate given how many pandemic-backlogged trials and Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendants are ahead of Bannon on the judge’s calendar.

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