Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
Special counsel John Durham suffered another defeat in court.
- Three years ago, Attorney General Bill Barr appointed Durham to investigate the origins of the FBI’s Russia probe. Shortly before the 2020 presidential election, Barr elevated Durham to special counsel to ensure Durham’s work would continue if Joe Biden became president. Former President Donald Trump and his allies voiced their hopes that Durham’s investigation would uncover a “deep state” conspiracy against him.
- This week, a jury acquitted Igor Danchenko, an analyst who contributed to the notorious Steele dossier (a 2016 report that sought to link the Trump campaign to the Russian government), of making false statements to the FBI. At trial, the prosecution sought to emphasize the implications of Danchenko’s statements. “This defendant’s lies caused intensive surveillance on a U.S. citizen,” a prosecutor said, referencing actions the FBI took as a result of the information Danchenko provided to investigators. Danchenko’s defense attorney countered by highlighting the political nature of the investigation. He also accused Durham of trying to prove a crime “at any cost.”
- Danchenko’s prosecution was the third case brought by Durham. In the first case, a former FBI attorney pled guilty, but avoided jail time, for falsifying a document. And in the second case, a jury acquitted a cybersecurity lawyer who worked with the Hillary Clinton campaign of making false statements to the FBI. Durham is expected to submit to DOJ leadership a final report summarizing his findings later this year.
The Department of Justice recommended that Steve Bannon receive a six-month jail sentence and a $200,000 fine for his contempt of Congress conviction.
- In July, a federal jury in Washington, D.C. convicted Bannon on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a January 6 Committee subpoena. The Committee issued a subpoena to Bannon for testimony and document production in September 2021.
- In the government’s sentencing memorandum, prosecutors wrote that in response to the subpoena, Bannon “pursued a bad-faith strategy of defiance and contempt.” “His effort to exact a quid pro quo with the Committee to persuade the Department of Justice to delay trial and dismiss the charges against him should leave no doubt that his contempt was deliberate and continues to this day,” they continued.
- Each count carries a statutory maximum sentence of one year in jail, but the federal sentencing guidelines recommend, at most, six months in jail. DOJ is asking the judge to impose the longest sentence under the guidelines. Bannon will be sentenced later today.
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