A coalition of the nation’s largest media companies and news organizations has filed a legal brief in support of Stephen K. Bannon, asking a federal court not to bar him from publicly releasing documents related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
As part of a contempt of Congress case against him, the government is seeking to prevent Mr. Bannon from releasing thousands of pages of documents he has access to. The coalition — which includes ABC, CBS, CNN, Dow Jones, NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post — on Tuesday filed the brief arguing that the government’s proposed order would violate the First Amendment.
Mr. Bannon, a onetime adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, was indicted by a federal grand jury in November and charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after he refused to comply with subpoenas to testify and to provide documents for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 mob attack. He has pleaded not guilty.
As part of the discovery process, Mr. Bannon’s lawyers have gained access to more than 1,000 pages of documents, including transcripts of witness testimony and grand-jury exhibits. In a Nov. 17 filing, the Justice Department asked that a protective order be put in place to bar Mr. Bannon from making any of the documents public.
In a subsequent filing it noted that Mr. Bannon had indicated that he intended to release documents “to make extrajudicial arguments about the merits of the case pending against him and the validity of the government’s decision to seek an indictment.” Federal prosecutors also pointed to remarks Mr. Bannon made at a news conference after his first court hearing, including: “We’re gonna go on the offense on this.”
It is unusual for Mr. Bannon and major news organizations to fall on the same side of an issue. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Bannon has frequently denigrated established news media outlets.
But the coalition argued that the release of documents by Mr. Bannon is in the public interest.
“The public has an overwhelming interest in the facts, circumstances and causes of the Jan. 6 riot,” the coalition said in its brief. “Bannon has been indicted in an investigation of the riot and has demonstrated his desire to communicate with the press and public about the government’s case against him.”
News of the legal brief was first reported by The Daily Mail.