Trump ally Steve Bannon ordered to pay unpaid legal bills

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon holds up a copy of the Financial Times while speaking to members of the media outside US District Court House as his trial for contempt of Congress continues, in Washington, DC, on July 20, 2022.

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A judge ordered former Trump White House aide Steve Bannon to pay a New York law firm $480,487 in unpaid legal bills.

And that amount could grow.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Arlene Bluth also awarded the law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron fees it incurred from having to sue Bannon to collect what it was owed for work performed from November 2020 through November 2022.

Bluth’s six-page decision brushed aside Bannon’s arguments against the bill, which suggested Davidoff Hutcher’s retainer was not entitled to charge for work related to four different legal cases, and that he never “personally received” the firms’ bills or paid their invoices himself.

The judge noted that Davidoff Hutcher had been paid $375,000 for work for Bannon before he stopped paying the firm.

“Clearly someone affiliated with defendant was getting these invoices and defendant admits he instructed his team to pay plaintiff,” Bluth wrote.

Bannon “cannot receive the benefit of plaintiff’s legal representation and then insist he need not for it,” the judge wrote.

Bannon’s current lawyer, Harlan Protass told CNBC on Monday: “The judge’s decision was clearly wrong and we intend to immediately appeal.”

The order comes as Bannon — now represented by a different law firm — faces a May 2024 criminal trial in the same court for allegedly defrauding donors to a purported effort to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. He has pleaded not guilty in the case.

Former President Donald Trump pardoned Bannon just before leaving office in January 2021 in connection with a then-pending federal criminal prosecution for the same alleged “We Build the Wall” scam, in which three co-defendants all later pleaded guilty or were convicted.

Bannon also is appealing a Washington, D.C., federal court conviction and related four-month jail sentence for contempt of Congress for refusing to testify to the special House committee that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot, after it issued him a subpoena.

Bannon’s former lawyer, Davidoff Hutcher partner Robert Costello, told CNBC that if Bannon “appeals, of course, the meter is running” on the unpaid fees he owes the firm.

Steve Bannon appeared before a federal judge in connection with his indictment for contempt of Congress for failing to respond to a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee on January 6. Also pictured are Bannon’s attorney David Schoen (2nd L) and attorney Robert J. Costello (L).

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Bluth tacked on a rate of 1% interest prejudgment on the legal fees she awarded Davidoff Hutcher on Friday.

But Costello said that will spike to 9% annually once his firm files post-judgment court documents, with the potential for Bannon to owe Davidoff Hutcher even more in legal fees if he loses on appeal.

“This is a lose-lose proposition for him,” said Costello. “But he has to make his own business decisions.”

Costello, who represented Bannon in the “We Build the Wall” and Jan. 6 cases, described Bannon as effectively ghosting him nine months or so ago.

“Mr. Bannon, unfortunately, just stopped paying our bills,” Costello said. “And I communicated with him constantly about it, and he decided just not to respond.”

Asked if Bannon failed to answer Costello at all when the lawyer contacted him about the unpaid bills, Costello said, “Correct. Silence, crickets.”

“I don’t know what his personal problems or issues” were, Costello said when asked why he believed Bannon did not respond or pay his debt. “Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t read minds.”

“It’s unfortunate,” Costello said, referring to the lawsuit to recoup the legal fees. “I didn’t want to sue the guy. Personally, I like the guy.”

Bannon alleged in his response to the lawsuit that he told Costello and his firm to stop working for him in January 2022, and that Costello performed work for him that was unrelated to the retainer agreement that was the subject of the suit.

“In reply, [Costello’s firm] argues that defendant is attempting to manufacture an issue of fact where none exists and that documentary evidence shows that defendant was actively accepting plaintiff’s legal representation well after January 2022,” Bluth noted.

Costello appeared with Bannon in federal court in Washington on June 15, 2022, for Bannon’s arraignment in the contempt of Congress case. That was more than four months after Bannon later claimed he had instructed the lawyer to cease work on his behalf.


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