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Jan. 6 Court Fights Are Resurfacing Some Familiar Faces From Trump-Era Legal Battles

Steve Bannon hired one of Trump's impeachment lawyers to fight his contempt of Congress charges.

Posted on November 16, 2021, at 7:45 p.m. ET

Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Steve Bannon and his attorneys David Schoen (center) and M. Evan Corcoran (right) address the media after an appearance at a federal courthouse on contempt of Congress charges.

WASHINGTON — Lawyers who landed in former president Donald Trump’s orbit for some of the biggest legal fights of his term keep popping up in cases related to the Jan. 6 riot and its aftermath.

When Steve Bannon addressed a scrum of reporters after his first court appearance Monday on federal charges of contempt of Congress — vowing to fight and make it the “misdemeanor from hell” — he had a familiar face by his side.

David Schoen, one of Bannon’s lawyers, had served on Trump’s legal defense team during his second impeachment trial earlier this year. Now leading Bannon’s defense, Schoen joined his client outside the federal courthouse in attacking the prosecution, calling it “outrageous.” He defended Bannon’s decision to rely on Trump’s claim of executive privilege in refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify and provide documents to the committee investigating Jan. 6, even as he acknowledged that the privilege issue was still being fought over in court.

Schoen’s involvement in Bannon’s case rounded out the trifecta of Trump’s impeachment team keeping a foot in the door on legal matters related to the sprawling investigation into the Jan. 6 riot. Schoen’s co-counsel Bruce Castor Jr. and Michael van der Veen — who work at the same Philadelphia-based law firm — have for months represented clients who were charged with criminal activity at the US Capitol that day or who are under investigation.

It’s common for private lawyers who do work for a political party or an elected official to stay connected to that world, picking up related cases and clients. The numerous investigations and legal sagas that defined Trump’s presidency generated their own network of lawyers. Some have distanced themselves from their former client, but others stuck around and jumped into the court action that followed Trump’s refusal to accept the election results and the attack on the Capitol by a mob of his supporters.

Castor, a former district attorney in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, is representing Kristina Malimon — a pro-Trump activist — and her mother, Yevgeniya Malimon, who were arrested on Jan. 6 near the Capitol after a curfew took effect and charged with illegally being on federal property. Unlike most of the hundreds of people prosecuted so far for allegedly participating in the riot, the Malimons are not facing federal charges. Castor took on their cases in the spring and told BuzzFeed News in an email that the Malimons had contacted him about representation and paid his “normal fee.” NPR first reported his involvement.

“I have other potential defendants from that day (1/6) that so far have not been charged, and I am doing my best to see that remains the case and remain hopeful,” Castor wrote. “People contact me from all around the country almost daily, sometimes multiple potential cases per day. If I think I can help them, and they can afford to pay the fees the firm charges for my efforts (and for those of the people who work with me), I will represent them.”

Van der Veen is representing Jason Dolan, a Florida man charged in a Jan. 6 conspiracy case against members of the Oath Keepers, an extremist group that was prominently involved in the Capitol riot. Van der Veen entered his appearance in early June, shortly after Dolan was arrested. Dolan entered a guilty plea in September and agreed to cooperate with the investigation; he hasn’t been sentenced yet. Van der Veen did not return a request for comment.

Castor said that Bannon “is in good hands” with Schoen. He also included a defense of the impeachment team’s work; Trump was acquitted by the Senate.

“I have heard people say we who defended President Trump in the second impeachment did not work well together. That notion is false. We all had our specific roles to perform, and we got along extremely well. I have nothing negative to say about any of the people working on our side. We did our best, and we won the case, which was, after all, the object of what we were asked to do. To my knowledge, we all were paid fully and on time,” Castor wrote.

In attendance at Bannon’s court hearing this week was another veteran of the Trump-era legal battles — Paul Kamenar, a DC-based attorney who had been part of Roger Stone’s legal team when the longtime Trump ally was charged in the Russia investigation. Kamenar also represented Stone associate Andrew Miller in unsuccessfully fighting a grand jury subpoena related to the probe. Likewise, Schoen briefly represented Stone. Kamenar chatted with reporters while waiting for Bannon and his lawyers to exit the courthouse. He told BuzzFeed News via text message later that he had come to court to “observe” since he’d worked with Schoen but didn’t “have any connection with Steve Bannon.”

M. Evan Corcoran, Bannon's other lawyer, meanwhile, is involved in other cases related to Jan. 6; he’s representing one person charged with participating in the riot, Frank Scavo, who pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing later this month, as well as Michael Riley, a longtime Capitol Police officer accused of trying to obstruct the investigation into the riot.

Trump’s own legal efforts after Jan. 6 are being led by Jesse Binnall. The Virginia-based lawyer was part of the team that represented former national security adviser Michael Flynn against the charge that he had lied to investigators probing Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 election and any connection to the former president. Flynn had pleaded guilty early in the investigation but replaced his lawyers in mid-2019 in an effort to undo that agreement with prosecutors and challenge the legitimacy of the entire prosecution. Binnall was part of that new legal team, led by conservative attorney Sidney Powell. Trump pardoned Flynn in late November 2020, ending the legal fight.

Binnall’s ties to Trump predated Flynn, though. He’d been a lawyer for the 2016 campaign and was brought in again in 2020, when he was part of unsuccessful efforts to contest President Joe Biden’s win in Nevada. Binnall is representing Trump in suing the Jan. 6 committee to stop members from getting his archived presidential records, and he’s also defending the former president against five civil lawsuits related to the election — one that accuses him of trying to violate the rights of Black voters, and four seeking to hold him liable for the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

After Flynn’s case was over, Powell pivoted to a starring role boosting Trump’s efforts to delegitimize the election results. Judges across the country rejected Powell’s legal challenges to Biden’s win in key states, either for being procedurally deficient or on the merits. She’s under investigation for ethics violations in her handling of postelection litigation that have put her at risk of losing her law license in Texas. Since Trump left office, Powell has stayed involved in some of the legal fights surrounding Jan. 6, albeit less directly than her former co-counsel Binnall.

Powell, through her “Defending the Republic” organization, has continued to push the lie that the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud. She’s criticized the Justice Department’s prosecution effort against people accused of joining the riot on Jan. 6 and promoted a narrative that’s been popular among some conservatives that defendants who are being kept in pretrial detention — most of whom are charged with violent offenses — are “political prisoners.” Her website links to a channel on the messaging platform Telegram featuring updates about incarcerated Jan. 6 defendants and efforts to organize fundraising, care packages, and prayer groups.

In a post on Defending the Republic’s website, Powell wrote that her group was “stepping up to assist as much as we can with coordination, resources, and consultation with the lawyers who are defending those still accused and those still incarcerated — and in many cases, likely wrongly accused of any offense regarding their presence at, near or in the Capitol Building on January 6.”

Powell isn’t representing anyone charged in the riot and didn’t return requests for comment about what, if any, role she’s played in the official legal defense effort. Defending the Republic’s website features links to news coverage about the prosecution and videos with critical commentary from Powell and others. In August, the group released a 50-minute movie about Couy Griffin, the founder of Cowboys for Trump, who is facing misdemeanor charges of illegally being on the Capitol grounds. Powell isn’t part of Griffin’s criminal case, however, and his court-appointed lawyers — who are paid through the court under the Criminal Justice Act — said in a statement that she is not advising on his defense.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.