As he takes on another high-profile client, Atlanta attorney David Schoen says that he “could do without all of the publicity and the circus-like atmosphere” and “the vicious hate mail … that apparently comes with the territory.
Schoen, an Orthodox Jew, is back in the spotlight nine months after representing then-former President Donald Trump in February’s impeachment trial before the Senate.
The “territory” now is the case of former Trump aide Steve Bannon, who is charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the committee investigating the violent breach of Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.
Schoen says that has brought another wave of vitriol. “The hate mail this time around is almost all directed to me being Jewish in one way or another. The writers tell me to take my kipa off, that I am not really a Jew or that I am a phony Jew, and most call me a Nazi,” he said, answering the AJT’s questions by email.
News coverage and social media in February took note of when Schoen, who turns 63 in late December, did or did not wear a kippah on the Senate floor and, when not, how he placed a hand atop his bare head and said a prayer before drinking from a water bottle.
Bannon, who had been chief executive officer of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, worked for seven months in 2017 in the White House as chief strategist and counselor to Trump. After leaving the White House, he returned to Breitbart News, a right-wing website that he co-founded in 2016.
He was indicted Nov. 12 by a federal grand jury on two counts, one for failing to appear for a deposition and the other for failing to turn over documents sought in a subpoena. The indictment said: “The Select Committee has reason to believe that you have information relevant to understanding important activities that led to and informed the events at the Capitol” on Jan 6.
Schoen said that he received a call that day from a consultant for Bannon, asking if he would represent the accused. He rejected speculation that Trump was involved in his being retained by Bannon. “I have every reason to believe Mr. Bannon will be paying my fee and I have absolutely no reason to believe that former President Trump was behind my hiring,” Schoen said.
Schoen was present Nov. 15 when the 68-year-old Bannon, after surrendering to the FBI, appeared before a federal magistrate judge in Washington, D.C. Bannon was released without bond, but ordered to surrender his passport and to check in weekly with court authorities. Outside the courthouse, he told reporters: “This is going to be a misdemeanor from hell for [Attorney General] Merrick Garland, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and [President] Joe Biden.”
A plea of not guilty was entered on Bannon’s behalf on Nov. 17. No trial date has been set. If convicted, Bannon could face a minimum of 30 days and a maximum of one year imprisonment on each count.
On Jan. 6, following a rally on the Ellipse at which Trump spoke, several thousand people marched to Capitol Hill. Protesters battled with police on the outside steps and inside the building, disrupting and delaying for several hours congressional certification of the Electoral College vote that made Joe Biden the 46th president.
One Capitol Hill police officer died from injuries sustained as the mob surged. Four officers later committed suicide. A Trump supporter was fatally shot by Capitol Hill police as she tried to force her way into the barricaded House chamber, where members were sheltering. The D.C. medical examiner said that another woman died from “acute amphetamine intoxication” and was trampled in the throng, and that a man died from a heart attack.
“I view this as a very interesting and challenging case and I think it reflects a very destructive politicization of the criminal process. I wish the case had never been brought as a criminal case; but now that it has, I will do my best to defend Mr. Bannon,” Schoen wrote. “Mr. Bannon is charged with two misdemeanors; but there are four FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] agents and three federal prosecutors assigned to the case, the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland issued his own press release (very inappropriately) and President Biden called for the prosecution (later acknowledging that that was totally inappropriate).”
Biden walked back his Oct. 15 remark during an Oct. 21 appearance on a CNN town hall, saying, “It has become the most — it was corrupted under the last administration. I should have chosen my words more wisely. I did not, have not, and will not pick up the phone and call the attorney general and tell him what he should or should not do in terms of who he should prosecute.”
Schoen also addressed the invocation of executive privilege by Bannon, who was not a White House employee on Jan. 6. “This is an interesting legal question and it is not clear how the underlying Executive Privilege issue will be resolved,” he said.
Schoen maintains that opinions issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel support Bannon’s position. One, from May 2019, included: “It is true that the President does not have the same need for the daily advice and assistance of his former advisers, as with his current advisers, yet the confidentiality interests associated with the advisers’ former role remain just as strong.”
On this issue, Schoen said, “It makes sense. Presidents often call on former office holders for advice long after they left office for a variety of reasons. He and they should be able to count on their conversations remaining privileged (think, national security for example or other sensitive issues to highlight the point).”
Schoen expressed a lack of confidence in the House panel, formed by the majority Democrats with minimal Republican cooperation. “I am afraid they are incapable of establishing a truly independent committee of people genuinely interested in learning all of the facts surrounding what happened on 1/6. I believe the American people deserve to know; but I feel 100% that the committee that has now been formed will not and cannot come to any credible conclusion,” he said, citing what he considers to be prejudicial comments by committee members.
Bannon is not alone in refusing to cooperate with the congressional panel. Three other Trump aides have been subpoenaed: former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino, and former Defense Department official Kashyap Patel. ì
- David Schoen
- Orthodox Jew
- former President Donald Trump
- Steve Bannon
- White House as chief strategist
- Remove term: Capitol Hill Capitol HillRemove term: The indictment
- The indictment
- Nancy Pelosi
- Capitol Hill
- [Attorney General] Merrick Garland
- Electoral College
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Joe Biden the 46th president.
- U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland
- President Biden
- Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel support Bannon’s
- Executive Privilege
- Defense Department
- White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications Dan Scavino