Steve Bannon's lawyers are crying foul after federal prosecutors quietly obtained email and phone records belonging to one of them.
The records may be related to Bannon's claim that he was acting on legal advice when he defied a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, according to reports.
Prosecutors reportedly began obtaining the records a week after the Department of Justice indicted Bannon for contempt in November for defying the subpoena.
In a filing on Friday, Bannon's lawyers called prosecutors' actions "outrageous and inappropriate government conduct." They said that last month, Department of Justice lawyers provided them with 790 documents.
“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."
According to the Daily Beast, "These kinds of spy tactics are sure to raise public concern, because prosecutors don’t usually spy on a target’s own lawyer."
"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."
According to Politico, "many of Costello’s email logs were provided to prosecutors on Dec. 7 under the auspices of a so-called 2703 order, which doesn’t always require notice to the customer."
"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," Politico reports.
The filing by Bannon's attorneys also revealed 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," the Daily Beast reports.
"His lawyers are seeking any records at the Justice Department headquarters and the White House that would show a politically driven plot to harm Bannon himself," according to the site. "His lawyers asked for any documents that 'reference making an example of Mr. Bannon, punishing him, hoping to influence or affect the conduct of other potential witnesses before the Select Committee, or words of similar meaning and effect.'"