Steve Bannon lawyers want off his criminal case after ex-Trump advisor discussed Fauci beheading

Key Points
  • The criminal defense lawyers for ex-top Trump advisor Steve Bannon filed court papers saying they would seek to withdraw from the case, a day after Bannon discussed having FBI Director Christopher Wray and infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci beheaded.
  • "Mr. Bannon is in the process of retaining new counsel, and Quinn Emanuel intends to move to withdraw," wrote Bannon's lead attorney, William Burck, in the filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
  • Bannon is free on a $5 million bond in the case, where he is accused of defrauding donors to a nonprofit group set up to supposedly fund building a wall on the U.S. southern border.
Former White House senior counselor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse after he testified at the Roger Stone trial November 8, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

The criminal defense lawyers for former top Trump advisor Steve Bannon will seek to withdraw from the case, just a day after Bannon discussed having FBI Director Christopher Wray and federal infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci beheaded.

"Mr. Bannon is in the process of retaining new counsel, and [the firm of] Quinn Emanuel intends to move to withdraw," wrote his lead attorney, William Burck, in a letter Friday to Judge Analisa Torres in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where Bannon is scheduled to go on trial next May.

Burck asked Torres for a three-week continuance of a status conference in the case, which currently is scheduled for Monday.

"Mr. Bannon respectfully requests that the status conference in this matter be adjourned for three weeks so that he may formally retain new counsel," Burck wrote.

Steve Bannon pleads not guilty to defrauding border wall donors

He noted that prosecutors in the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, as well as lawyers for Bannon's three co-defendants, had agreed to the adjournment. Torres later Friday signed off on the request, and set the next hearing for Dec. 2.

Burck declined to comment to CNBC when asked why he and his co-counsel, Daniel Koffmann, plan to stop representing Bannon.

Burck is a highly regarded Republican lawyer who worked in the White House as an advisor to President George W. Bush, and who represented Bannon and other Trump White House officials during special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

A spokeswoman for Bannon had no immediate comment about Burck's letter.

In this Aug. 25, 2014 file photo, Attorney Bill Burck walks to court in Richmond, Va.
Steve Helber | AP

Bannon, former head of the conservative news site Breitbart, is free on $5 million bond in his criminal case, where he and his co-defendants are accused of defrauding donors to a nonprofit group set up to supposedly fund building a wall on the southern border of the United States.

He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Bannon ran President Donald Trump's winning campaign in the latter part of the 2016 cycle.

He later served in the White House as a senior advisor to Trump before the president fired him in August 2017.

Twitter on Thursday permanently suspended the account of Bannon's podcast, "War Room: Pandemic," after his comments about Fauci and Wray on that show, when he was discussing a hypothetical second term for Trump. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The episode was removed by YouTube as well for violating that video platform's policies.

On his podcast, Bannon had said, "Second term kicks off with firing Wray, firing Fauci."

"Now I actually want to go a step farther, but I realize the president is a kind-hearted man and a good man," Bannon said.

"I'd actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England, I'd put the heads on pikes, right, I'd put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you're gone – time to stop playing games."

Bannon's spokeswoman said Thursday that he was not suggesting that Fauci and Wray be beheaded.

She also said he has "never called for violence of any kind."

"Mr. Bannon's commentary was clearly meant metaphorically. He previously played a clip of St. Thomas More's trial and was making an allusion to this historical event in Tudor England for rhetorical purposes," the spokeswoman said.

"Mr. Bannon has been openly critical of FBI Director Chris Wray for weeks and has called for his firing for his failure to investigate and address Hunter Biden's hard drive and that has been in Director Wray's possession since in Dec 2019," she said.

"In addition, Mr. Bannon has supported comments from the White House calling for the immediate firing of Dr. Fauci."

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment Friday when asked if that office will seek to revoke Bannon's release bond or ask a judge to impose a gag order on him because of his remarks about Fauci and Wray.

The same office in August had told the judge in the case that a "steady stream" of "highly inflammatory" social media posts about the case by Bannon's co-defendant Brian Kolfage risked influencing the potential pool of jurors for the trial of the four men.

Prosecutors said at the time that a gag order against Kolfage might be required in light of his calling the case a "witch hunt."

After that letter, the judge, Torres, warned Kolfage, Bannon, and the other two defendants, Anthony Badolato and Timothy Shea, at a court hearing that she would take action "if I determine that public statements by attorneys or by the defendants threaten the court's ability to conduct a fair trial."

Asked by the judge at the hearing if he understood her, Bannon said, "Yes, your honor."

A Twitter spokesperson in a statement Thursday said, "The @WarRoomPandemic account has been permanently suspended for violating the Twitter Rules, specifically our policy on the glorification of violence."

Alex Joseph, a spokesperson for YouTube, which is owned by Google, said: "We've removed this video for violating our policy against inciting violence. We will continue to be vigilant as we enforce our policies in the post-election period."