Federal prosecutors investigating former White House adviser Steve Bannon admitted Monday they mistakenly captured records of other people with the same name as Bannon's lawyer.
The Justice Department, in a 10-page filing, acknowledged that errors were made while trying to obtain email and phone logs of Bannon's attorney Robert Costello, Politico reported.
Bannon's trial for contempt of Congress is scheduled to begin July 18, though attorneys representing former President Donald Trump's chief strategist are trying to have the charges thrown out.
Lawyers advised Bannon not to appear before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's committee investigating the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), which has planned to try to block Bannon from using his lawyer's advice as a defense, argued Monday that its error of ensnaring the records of other persons named Robert Costello had no bearing on the broader case.
Bannon's legal team, in a filing last week, pointed out apparent dead-ends investigators encountered as they tried to identify Costello’s phone and email accounts, Politico said.
Costello said he never used some of the obtained accounts.
Prosecutors maintained that investigators had not guessed at possible email addresses, but instead consulted databases to get those leads.
"The three email addresses about which the Defendant complains … are addresses that law enforcement databases identified as being associated with Mr. Costello and one of his known addresses in Manhasset, New York," prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office in Washington wrote.
DOJ investigators still said one Gmail account could pertain to Bannon's attorney, and proceeded to seek and obtain emails and call logs from a related phone number.
However, the Gmail account showed a middle name that should have signaled the account belonged to a different Robert Costello, prosecutors conceded.
"The Government acknowledges that in reaching this conclusion, it did not recognize the inconsistent middle name in the billing information," the filing said, Politico reported. "These were appropriate investigative steps. Phone records and orders issued under Section 2703(d) are regularly used to help Government investigators confirm use of accounts and means of communication and to exclude accounts ultimately determined to be irrelevant."
The department said Bannon's team attempted to twist "relatively common investigative steps" into a scandal, and revealed in a court filing the personal information of the other persons named Robert Costello, exposing them to "harassment."
A hearing on that and other issues was scheduled for Wednesday morning by U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols.
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