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One of the contempt charges Bannon face is for not handing over documents to the Jan 6th committee. Why can't they just issue search warrants for every location remotely-associated with Bannon and get them themselves? Why do they need Bannon to turn them over?

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    Maybe they're encrypted, stored on password-protected devices, or stored on the cloud associated with Bannon's accounts? In such cases it is much easier to ask Bannon to turn them over than to attempt to gain access to devices (although law enforcement may have some tools for decrypting devices, or be able to require Google, Apple, etc, to turn over data, if they know what they are looking for).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 10:38
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    Ignoring any legal impediment to doing so, I think you are greatly underestimating just how many locations could be considered "remotely associated" with Bannon, and how much time and money it would take to search them.
    – chepner
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 12:54

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First, let's be clear about who "they" is. Neither Congress nor the Department of Justice has the power to issue search warrants by themselves. Search warrants are issued by judges, upon a showing of probable cause by the prosecution.

In particular, search warrants can only be issued in criminal investigations. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 41c:

(c) Persons or Property Subject to Search or Seizure. A warrant may be issued for any of the following:

(1) evidence of a crime;

(2) contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed;

(3) property designed for use, intended for use, or used in committing a crime; or

(4) a person to be arrested or a person who is unlawfully restrained.

I don't think Bannon's documents fit any of those criteria at this time. The Congressional investigation is not a criminal investigation, and I'm not aware that it's currently being alleged that the documents contain evidence of a crime.

Bannon himself is charged with a crime - contempt of Congress - but the actual content of the documents isn't relevant evidence in that case. As I understand it, the prosecution only has to prove that the subpoena was properly issued, and that Bannon failed to respond to it, which latter I don't think is disputed. What is actually in those documents, or indeed whether they even exist, is immaterial to his guilt or innocence on that charge.

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    Also note that even if Bannon is convicted and fined/sent to prison for failing to respond to the subpoena, he still doesn't have to hand over any documents. They will still need to open a criminal investigation and get a warrant if they want to force that. Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 14:03
  • I believe that the prosecution in the contempt case also has to prove that Bannon was obliged to respond to the subpoena by providing the requested documents. As far as I can determine, this is the central point of contention in the case. It's not clear to me how much it is a question of law vs a question of fact. Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 14:58
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    @SnakeDoc: Indeed, Congress's investigative powers are meant to uphold the balance of powers between the three branches: they can demand government documents from the executive and judicial branches all day long, but as soon as they demand them from private citizens they're violating the Fourth Amendment. If the Justice Department makes a choice to investigate or not which Congress doesn't like, they can punish said Justice Department officials via impeachment (in theory, but they don't even when said officials are engaged in crimes).
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 19:56
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    @TCooper Probably because if further investigation revealed that the documents did in fact exist, and he knew about them, he could then be indicted for perjury, which is potentially an even more serious charge. Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 20:21
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    @TCooper I'm not a lawyer, but I imagine a jury might infer that. It certainly wouldn't look good for him if he testified under oath that they didn't exist and then they were later found to exist, even worse if it turns out they existed but were then destroyed (destruction of evidence is another serious charge), so it's safer for him to not make any such explicit denial. Commented Jul 20, 2022 at 20:32

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