On Thursday, writing for Business Insider, C. Ryan Barber profiled the Trump-appointed judge assigned to Steve Bannon's contempt of Congress indictment — and explained why the situation is less optimal for Bannon than it first appears.
"At first glance, Steve Bannon appeared to hit the judge-drawing lottery when his criminal prosecution was randomly assigned to a Donald Trump appointee," wrote Barber. "But in the two years since Judge Carl Nichols' confirmation to the federal trial court in Washington, DC, he has ruled repeatedly against Trump and his allies — and often found himself in high-profile cases like the closely-watched prosecution against Bannon that has landed in his lap."
On paper, Nichols is a perfectly credentialed right-wing judge, wrote Barber: "A former Supreme Court clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, Nichols held a top Justice Department role in the George W. Bush administration and later worked as a corporate lawyer at the firm Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr. As Politico recently reported, Nichols argued as a top Justice Department lawyer that the president's close advisors have 'absolute immunity' and can ignore congressional subpoenas."
However, when big political cases have come before him involving Trump, noted Barber, Nichols has taken a more independent line.
Among the cases that Nichols has tried includes the defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems against Trump allies Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani for claiming the company rigged the election — and Nichols ultimately moved the case forward, ruling, "There is no blanket [defamation] immunity for statements that are 'political' in nature."
"Bannon's comment and reputation for fiery rhetoric has raised speculation that Nichols might eventually consider a gag order similar to what was imposed on Roger Stone when he was prosecuted in 2019 for obstructing Congress' investigation into Russia interference in the 2016 election," noted Barber. "In response to the indictment, Bannon threatened outside of court last week that he would make his case the 'misdemeanor from hell' for the Biden administration."
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