Federal prosecutors discreetly got email and phone records belonging to one of Steve Bannon’s lawyers, prompting outrage.
According to reports, the papers could be relevant to Bannon’s allegation that he resisted a subpoena from the House Select Committee probing the Capitol insurgency because he was relying on legal advice.
Prosecutors reportedly began getting the information a week after the Department of Justice charged Bannon with contempt for resisting the subpoena.
Bannon’s lawyers branded the prosecutors’ actions “outrageous and inappropriate government activity” in a complaint on Friday. They claimed that lawyers from the Department of Justice sent them 790 documents last month.
“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.
“Nowhere in the Government’s production was a copy of a court order authorizing the Government’s actions, nor was there a copy of any subpoena for the records, nor was there even any application for a court order or for authorization from the Department of Justice for subpoenas intended to obtain defense counsel’s personal and professional telephone and email records.”
“These kinds of spy tactics are sure to raise public concern because prosecutors don’t usually spy on a target’s own lawyer,” said a report.
“The Justice Department seemed to have acknowledged engaging in that surveillance in a letter it wrote to (Bannon’s) 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,” the Daily Beast reports.
“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.
On Dec. 7, prosecutors received a large portion of Costello’s email records under the auspices of a so-called 2703 order, which does not usually need notice to the customer.
The Daily Beast reported the following. “Bannon’s lawyers say the data prosecutors have sought from Costello’s providers include records related to Mr. Costello’s emails for at least four different email accounts with different carriers and telephone records for at least four different phone numbers, including from his personal home phone, his law firm’s landline and from his personal cellphone.”
According to the Daily Beast, Bannon’s lawyers filed a document revealing that he “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.” Only time will tell is Bannon is brought to justice. We sure hope so.