Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The snake pit that is our swamp

Federal prosecutors of former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon have admitted obtaining email and phone records of private citizens who share the name of Bannon’s attorney, but insist it has no bearing on the case. 

In a 10-page court filing Monday night, the DC US Attorney’s Office acknowledged that the government attempted to obtain logs of communications by Robert Costello, only to collect similar records from others by that name.

The prosecutors described their efforts as “appropriate investigative steps, in part relying on intelligence from law enforcement databases” to determine whether Costello communicated with Bannon about a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.

“As is commonplace in investigations, some of those steps did not yield relevant information, and the Government’s understandings evolved as its investigation progressed,” the filing read. “Such twists and turns are common in any investigation.” 

Pictured Bannon’s lawyer Robert Costello
The DC US Attorney’s Office acknowledged that the government attempted to obtain logs of communications by attorney Robert Costello (above), only to collect similar records from others by that name.

Last week, Bannon and his legal team filed a 26-page motion to “compel disclosure” of the government’s efforts to obtain Costello’s records. 

They claimed the prosecution was “beyond reckless,” as well as that the records obtained “were all for another completely uninvolved citizen apparently named Robert Costello or Robert M. Costello. In fact, not one of the email accounts the Government sought access to in this case, intending to get defense counsel’s emails, actually was defense counsel’s email account.”

In Monday’s filing, the prosecution insisted it “had reason to believe” the email addresses and phone numbers belonged to Costello. 

Bannon Trump
Bannon was formerly a strategist for President Donald Trump.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

“The three email addresses about which the Defendant complains in his reply are addresses that law enforcement databases identified as being associated with Mr. Costello and one of his known addresses in Manhasset, New York.”

They explained that the mistake was made in not acknowledging different middle names listed in billing information obtained through one of the emails. 

“From the information it had gathered, the Government believed the law enforcement database information and subscriber information indicated the Google Account belonged to Mr. Costello and had been actively used during the relevant period,” Monday’s filing read. “The Government acknowledges that in reaching this conclusion, it did not recognize the inconsistent middle name in the billing information.”

January 6 riot
Bannon was indicted in December by a federal grand jury after flouting a subpoena issued by the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

Prosecutors also accused Bannon’s legal team of leaking information about the misdirected effort to the Daily Beast, which published an article about the matter last week, before the motion had been filed. 

“[I]t appears that a reporter was given access to identifying information about uninvolved individuals before the Defendant’s reply was filed,” they said. “Under these circumstances, the Government believes an inquiry of the Defendant regarding any contacts with the reporter in the article described above would be appropriate.”

Bannon is set to stand trial in July on two misdemeanor counts of contempt of Congress for ignoring a pair of subpoenas from the committee. He was indicted in November and quickly pleaded not guilty.

A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for Wednesday, according to Politico

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