(WASHINGTON) — Steve Bannon, who served as former President Donald Trump’s chief strategist before departing the White House in August 2017, is on trial for defying a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Bannon was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 panel for records and testimony in September of last year.
After the House of Representatives voted to hold him in contempt for defying the subpoena, the Justice Department in November charged Bannon with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress, setting up this week’s trial.
Here is how the news is developing. All times are Eastern:
Jul 22, 3:00 PM EDT
Bannon guilty on both counts
Steve Bannon has been found guilty on both counts of criminal contempt of Congress.
Count 1 is for failing to appear for a deposition in October 2021, and carries a maximum sentence of one year behind bars.
Count 2 is for refusing to provide records by the October 2021 deadline. It also carries a maximum one-year sentence.
Jul 22, 2:36 PM EDT
Jury reaches verdict
The jury in the contempt trial of Steve Bannon has reached a verdict.
It comes roughly three hours after jury members left the courtroom to begin deliberations.
Jul 22, 12:34 PM EDT
Jury begins deliberations after government’s rebuttal
The contempt case against Steve Bannon is now in the jury’s hands, after the government finished its rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument.
Prosecutor Amanda Vaughn began the rebuttal by telling the jury, “The defendant wants to make this hard, difficult, and confusing. They want you to wonder, ‘What am I missing?"”
“You’re not missing anything,” Vaughn said. “There were two witnesses because it’s as simple as it seems … as clear as black and white” on paper, she said.
She said Bannon did tell the committee he would not comply with the subpoena, but “that is not a negotiation.” She said the committee repeatedly told Bannon that it rejected his claims and that he had to comply, but Bannon is now defending his actions by saying he had raised objections at the time.
“That is like a child continuing to argue with their parent after they’ve been grounded. They know they’ve been grounded, they can argue all they want; it doesn’t change the fact that the decision has been made,” she said. In this case, she said, the committee made the decision and has the authority to do so.
“This is not a mistake,” Vaughn said of Bannon’s actions. “It’s a choice, it is contempt, and it is a crime.”
She then pushed back on the defense’s argument that Bannon’s noncompliance can’t be “willful” because the committee didn’t pursue other options or take the matter to a court, as if the committee “had some sort of obligation” to go to court and “get their permission,” she said.
“That’s like saying the referee on a soccer field can’t make calls on plays unless they go over to the baseball diamond next door and get the umpire’s opinion first,” Vaughn said. “The committee doesn’t answer to former President Trump” — it’s a different branch of government, she said.
As for Bannon’s recent “no harm, no foul” argument that he is now willing to testify publicly after Trump sent a letter saying he would waive executive privilege, Vaughn said, “That’s not what the evidence in this case shows.”
“That sudden decision to comply is nothing but a ploy. And it’s not even a good one, because the defendant forgot to tell the committee he would supply them with documents,” Vaughn said. Bannon is “pretending to comply now,” she said, and “it’s a waste of everyone’s time.”
“The committee told the defendant many times that defiance is a crime, but he didn’t listen because he didn’t care. He had contempt for them and the public service they’re trying to perform,” Vaughn said.
“He is guilty,” she concluded.
At the conclusion of closing arguments, the judge released the one alternate juror remaining, leaving the 12 jurors to begin deliberations.
Jul 22, 12:08 PM EDT
Case against Bannon is a ‘rush to judgment,’ defense tells jury
Defense attorney Evan Corcoran continued his closing argument by asking the jury to assess each witness’s “credibility.”
“You need to consider whether a witness has an interest in the outcome of the case, and need to consider whether the witness has a friendship … with anyone associated with the case,” he said.
“The entire foundation of the government’s case rests on Ms. Amerling,” the Jan. 6 committee staffer, Corcoran said, adding that “of course” she has an interest in the outcome of this case.
He said Amerling “singled out” Bannon and “rushed to judgment,” claiming that she filled out the subpoena’s “proof of service” form “before it was served.”
“Why fill out the proof of service before it was accomplished? That’s a reason to doubt the government’s case,” he said.
He also suggested that Amerling has a political bias, saying that Amerling has been a “staff member aligned with one political party” and donated to Democratic causes.
“Ms. Amerling worked for 20 years for one political party,” he said.
Referencing the book club that Amerling and prosecutor Molly Gaston both belong to, Corcoran said that Amerling has a “relationship with the prosecutor,” which “raises questions.”
“They socialized out of work,” Corcoran said, before adding, “Make no mistake, I’m not against book clubs,” which drew laughs from those watching in the courtroom.
Corcoran also told the jury that Bannon didn’t comply with the subpoena because he believed negotiations with the jury were ongoing. Of the letters between the Jan. 6 committee and Bannon’s attorney, Robert Costello, in which the committee repeatedly told Costello that Bannon must comply, Corcoran said, “The government wants you to believe that that’s a paper trail to a crime. … It’s two lawyers trying to communicate and negotiate over a legal issue.”
As for the deadlines written on the subpoenas, “those dates were placeholders,” he said.
Corcoran also said that Bannon’s compliance was impacted by concerns over executive privilege.
“He didn’t intentionally refuse to comply with the subpoena,” Corcoran said. “He clearly, through his attorney, said, ‘Let’s remove the obstacle to my coming to testify. Let’s get rid of the obstacle of executive privilege, and I’ll testify, as I’ve done on several occasions before Congress."”
Corcoran said that Bannon asked the committee to bring the executive privilege question before a court, and told the committee, “I will abide by the judge’s rules.”
“This case is not, as the prosecution said, about the need for people to play by the rules,” Corcoran said in wrapping up. “This is about Ms. Amerling saying they need to play by her rules.”
“Steve Bannon is innocent,” Corcoran concluded.
Jul 22, 11:46 AM EDT
Defense tells jury the government’s case ‘should give you pause’
Defense attorney Evan Corcoran began his closing argument by saying, “None of us will soon forget Jan. 6, 2021. It’s part of our collective memory.”
“But there isn’t evidence in this case that Steve Bannon was involved at all,” he said. “Steve Bannon is innocent of the crimes with which he’s charged.”
Telling the jury that there are many “things” that should “give you pause,” Corcoran said there is “reason to doubt the government’s case.”
He made several claims suggesting that the subpoena may not be valid for procedural reasons.
Corcoran said that Jan. 6 committee staffer Kristin Amerling testified that to her knowledge, Bannon, in conjunction with his subpoena, wasn’t provided a certain section of the House resolution laying out congressional rules, as required by congressional regulations. “That’s a reason for you to doubt the prosecution’s case. You must give Steve Bannon the benefit of the doubt,” Corcoran said.
The judge, however, interrupted Corcoran and told him to tie his remark to “an issue that’s actually been submitted” during trial — and when the prosecution raised an objection to Corcoran’s remarks, he moved on.
Corcoran then noted that Amerling had testified that a committee subpoena is only valid if it’s signed by the committee’s chairman. He then showed the jury Jan. 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson’s signature on letters to then-Bannon attorney Robert Costello, comparing it to Thompson’s signature on the subpoena.
“That is the signature on the subpoena, and you could ask yourself if one of those things is different than the other. Because that could be a doubt as to the government’s case, a reasonable doubt as to [whether] chairman Thompson signed the subpoena,” Corcoran said.
At that point, the judge called for a private sidebar again, and after that Corcoran moved on.
Jul 22, 10:57 AM EDT
Bannon chose ‘allegiance’ to Trump over the law, prosecutor says
During her closing argument, prosecutor Molly Gaston reminded the jury that the judge had told them that to convict Bannon, they must find that he not only failed to comply with the subpoena, but that he did so “willfully” — not to mean that he did it for an “evil or bad purpose,” but that the failure was “deliberate and intentional” and not the result of “inadvertence, accident or mistake.”
Gaston insisted that Bannon’s decision was “deliberate” and “willful” and that, “the reason for that choice does not matter.”
“It does not matter if he refused to comply because his lawyers advised him so,” or because he believed a privilege was involved, she said. “As long as the defendant knew that he had been commanded by the subpoena to produce documents and give testimony,” then “his belief that he had a good excuse not to comply does not matter. That is not a defense for contempt.”
She said this may be “strict,” but “in order for the government to function, citizens need to follow the rules. … It is how we all live together in society.”
“The defendant chose allegiance to Donald Trump over compliance with the law,” Gaston said.
Regarding claims by the defense that Bannon thought the dates “in black and white on the face of that document were not hard deadlines,” Gaston said: “Please don’t fall for that.”
“We are here because the defendant had contempt for Congress,” she said. “This is a situation in which the name of the crime tells you everything you need to know: contempt.”
Referring to Bannon’s defense attorney, Gaston said that “Mr. Corcoran has tried to tell you this case is about politics, but the only person making this case about politics is the defendant, and he is doing it to distract and confuse you. Don’t let him.”
“There is nothing political about enforcing the law against someone who, like the defendant, flouts it,” she said.
“The defendant chose defiance,” Gaston said. “Find him guilty.”
Jul 22, 10:34 AM EDT
Prosecutor tells jury Bannon ‘didn’t show up’
Prosecutor Molly Gaston began closing arguments by telling the jury, “This case is not complicated, but it is important.”
“This is simply a case about a man — that man, Steve Bannon — who didn’t show up,” she said. “Why didn’t he show up? He didn’t show up because he did not want to, because he did not want to provide the Jan. 6 committee with documents, he did not want to answers its questions, and when it really comes down to it, he did not want to recognize Congress’ authority or play by the government’s rules.”
“So why is this case important?” Gaston said. “It is important because our government only works if people show up. It only works if people play by the rules. And it only works if people are held accountable when they do not. And in this case, when the defendant deliberately chose to defy a congressional subpoena, that was a crime.”
Calling Jan. 6 “a dark day in our nation’s history” that included “violence against law enforcement” and efforts to disrupt the “peaceful transfer of power,” Gaston said Congress created the Jan. 6 committee to “make sense of it” and to “make sure that it never happens again.”
Regarding the subpoena that the committee sent Bannon, she said, “This document is not hard to understand. It tells the defendant what he is required to do, and when he is required to do it.”
“The defendant did not produce a single document,” Gaston said. “Was that a mistake? No, that was intentional.”
She recited the back-and-forth correspondence between Bannon’s then-lawyer, Robert Costello, and the committee, in which Bannon claimed that executive privilege “completely exempted him” and the committee repeatedly said that it “rejected” that claim and warned Bannon that he could face prosecution for contempt of Congress.
She noted that the privilege that Bannon claimed “could not possibly cover everything” that the committee was asking for, and that Bannon “made clear” in a social media post that “he was defying the committee to — quote — ‘stand with Trump."”
“This is the defendant celebrating his defiance,” Gaston said. “And this shows the defendant knew that the subpoena required him to produce documents.”
“This was not a mistake,” Gaston said, telling the jury “he ignored” the subpoena.
Jul 22, 10:04 AM EDT
Closing arguments get underway
Closing arguments are underway, after Judge Nichols gave the jury instructions for deliberations.
Regarding Bannon’s decision not to testify in the case, Nichols specifically told the jury: “You must not hold this decision against him, and it would be improper to speculate as to the reasons.”
“You must not assume the defendant is guilty because he chose not to testify,” the judge said.
The government will first make its closing argument, then the defense will make its closing argument, followed by a shorter rebuttal by the government.
Jul 22, 9:50 AM EDT
Defense concerned about impact of Jan. 6 hearing as trial resumes
As court resumed Friday morning for expected closing arguments, Bannon’s defense team filed a “notice” to Judge Carl Nichols expressing concern over last night’s prime-time Jan. 6 committee hearing and its “possible impact on the jury,” calling a segment in the hearing “highly inflammatory.”
The notice says that last night’s hearing “included a feature segment on the Defendant Stephen K. Bannon of a particularly inflammatory nature.” It’s referring to audio of Bannon that was played at about 10:38 p.m. ET in which Bannon can be heard days before the 2020 presidential election saying that even if Trump loses the election, “Trump will declare victory,” and there will be a “firestorm.”
Bannon’s defense team asked the judge to ask jurors whether they watched or heard about that segment, or the hearing in general.
“[T]here should be some inquiry, while assuring the jurors of the importance of candor and that they will not suffer negative consequences if they acknowledge exposure to the broadcast or its subject,” the team’s filing said.
“The nature and substance of the segment present a significant cause for concern regarding possible prejudice to Mr. Bannon’s constitutional fair trial rights and right to a jury trial if a juror viewed the segment of was made aware of it in some manner,” it said.
The jury has been brought into the courtroom for today’s proceedings, and so far there has been no mention of the defense team’s latest filing.
News coverage of the Jan. 6 committee has been an ongoing concern for both the defense team and prosecutors throughout this case. At the request of prosecutors, Judge Nichols reminded the jury not to watch or read about last night’s hearing before he sent the jury home last night.
Jul 21, 4:16 PM EDT
Leaving court, Bannon says he’s testified ‘more than anybody else’ in administration
Leaving the courthouse after the day in court, Bannon told reporters that — despite his decision not to testify in his trial on the advice of counsel — he has no compunction about testifying.
“Make sure everybody understands, of any person in the Trump administration, Stephen K. Bannon has testified,” Bannon said, referring to his earlier testimony as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and a parallel investigation by the House Intelligence Committee at the time.
“Thirty hours in the Mueller Commission … 20 hours in front of the House Intelligence Committee … I think over 50 hours of testimony,” Bannon said.
“Every single time, more than anybody else in the Trump administration,” he said.
Jul 21, 3:05 PM EDT
Defense rests its case after telling judge they were ‘stymied’
The defense has rested its case and the jury has been sent home for the day, with closing arguments and jury instructions planned for Friday morning.
“Your honor, the defense rests,” Bannon’s attorney Evan Corcoran said before the jury was dismissed for the day.
The move comes after defense attorney David Schoen told Judge Carl Nichols that Bannon was never able to mount a full defense in the trial because the judge limited the types of arguments the defense could make, and because the defense had been unable to question members of the Jan. 6 committee rather than just a staffer.
The defense especially wanted to question committee chairman Bennie Thompson, who signed the subpoena at issue and then referred the case to the Justice Department for prosecution.
“Our view is we’ve been badly stymied in bringing a defense in this case,” Schoen said. Bannon, he said, has been “handcuffed and not able to explain his story of the case.”
Nichols disputed the characterization, telling Schoen that he has simply been following the law in deciding what should be allowed at trial.
Jul 21, 12:49 PM EDT
Attorneys argue over whether subpoena dates were ‘in flux’
In asking the judge to acquit Bannon of the charges against him, defense attorney Evan Corcoran said of the prosecution, “They have not presented evidence upon which a reasonable person could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bannon is guilty of the charges of contempt of Congress.”
Regarding the deadline for Bannon to comply with the subpoena, Corcoran said that “it was clear” from the testimony of Jan. 6 committee staffer Kirstin Amerling that “the dates were in flux … but even the dates in the subpoena, she was unable to identify why those dates were in the subpoena at all. She was unable to identify who put those dates in the subpoena. And that’s a critical issue.”
Corcoran also argued that the indictment claims Bannon didn’t provide documents “by Oct. 18, 2021” — but the deadline on the subpoena itself was Oct. 7, 2021, a different date.
“In our view, the return date is either the date on the subpoena, or it’s open” — all of which shows “this was an ongoing negotiation,” Corcoran said.
In response, prosecutor Amanda Vaughn said, “The reasons for the dates are irrelevant.”
“The dates are on the subpoena,” Vaughn said. “The committee made clear in its letters to the defendant that those were the dates and that he had violated them, and the evidence is clear that he did not provide documents by Oct. 7 and did not come for his deposition on Oct. 14.”
The government “has provided sufficient evidence” of his guilt, and letters from the time and posts to Bannon’s social media “made clear” that he did not intend to comply, she said.
Jul 21, 12:13 PM EDT
Defense says no witnesses, including Bannon, will take the stand
At the start of the third day of testimony Thursday morning, the defense team in the contempt case against Steve Bannon said in court that they do not plan to call any witnesses to the stand — including Bannon himself — and instead asked the judge to dismiss the case.
“The jury has now heard all the evidence it is going to hear,” U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols subsequently announced.
The move came after the defense team asked the judge to acquit Bannon and rule that the government had not presented enough evidence to warrant continuing the trial.
In making its argument for acquittal, the defense said one of the government’s two witnesses “didn’t add much,” so it’s “really a one-witness case.”
The judge said he wouldn’t rule on the motion for acquittal yet.
Jul 20, 6:18 PM EDT
Bannon again rails at Thompson as he leaves courthouse
For the second day in a row, Bannon blasted Jan. 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson on his way out of court at the end of the day.
“Does he really have COVID?” said Bannon of the chairman, who announced Tuesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“What are the odds that a guy that is vaxxed, boosted and double boosted, following Dr. Fauci’s recommendation — what are the odds, on the very day this trial starts, he comes up with COVID?” Bannon said of Thompson’s absence as a witness in his trial.
“Why is Bennie Thompson not here?” Bannon repeated.
-Laura Romero and Soo Rin Kim
Jul 20, 5:55 PM EDT
FBI agent details Bannon’s social posts about subpoena before government rests its case
After just two witnesses, the government rested its case against Steve Bannon.
FBI agent Stephen Hart, the prosecution’s second witness, spent less than an hour on the stand.
Hart spent much of time testifying about Bannon’s page on the social media platform Gettr, which Hart described as “similar to Twitter.”
Prosecutor Molly Gaston showed that on Sept. 24, 2021, the day that Bannon’s subpoena was received by his then-attorney, Robert Costello, Bannon’s Gettr page posted a link to a Rolling Stone article with the words, “The Bannon Subpoena Is Just the Beginning. Congress’s Jan. 6 Investigation is Going Big.” Then on Oct. 8, 2021, the day after he was supposed to produce records to the Jan. 6 committee, Bannon’s Gettr page posted a link to a Daily Mail article with the words, “Steve Bannon tells the January 6 select committee that he will NOT comply with their subpoena.”
The Gettr post included images of Bannon, Trump, and a letter from Costello.
The materials prompted a debate over whether the posts were made by Bannon himself or by someone with access to his account, and whether those were Bannon’s own words or the media outlets’ words.
Gaston then had Hart read from the Daily Mail article, which quoted Bannon as telling the Daily Mail, “I stand with Trump and the Constitution.”
“Those are his words,” Gaston said of Bannon.
Hart also testified about a November 2021 videoconference he and prosecutors had with Costello after Costello requested the meeting to try to convince prosecutors not to pursue the contempt case against Bannon.
Hart testified that during that meeting, Costello told them that by Oct. 7, 2021, the deadline to produce documents, “they had not gathered any documents by that point.” Costello also had no other reason for Bannon’s refusal to comply other than executive privilege, Hart said.
Hart also testified that Costello, in the meeting, did not suggest they thought the deadlines were flexible, or that they were negotiating for a different date, or that Bannon would comply if the committee set different deadlines.
At one point, Corcoran tried to remind jurors that many lawmakers didn’t support the resolution to find Bannon in contempt of Congress. On cross examination, he asked Hart about the investigative steps Hart took in this case, asking him, “Did you interview … the 200-plus members of Congress who voted not to refer Steven Bannon to the U.S. Attorney’s office for contempt of Congress?”
Gaston objected, and the judge agreed, so Corcoran moved on.
Prosecutor Amanda Vaughn subsequently stood up and told the judge, “Your honor, the government rests.”
Court will reconvene on Thursday morning.
Jul 20, 4:39 PM EDT
Defense says Bannon was in ongoing negotiations with committee
As his cross-examination of Jan. 6 committee staffer Kirstin Amerling wrapped up, defense attorney Evan Corcoran continued to frame Bannon’s noncompliance with the subpoena as happening at a time when Bannon’s attorney was still in negotiations with the committee.
Amerling, however, testified that Bannon wasn’t in negotiations because there was nothing to negotiate — Trump hadn’t actually asserted executive privilege, Amerling said, so there was no outstanding issue to resolve. And she said that the committee had made clear to Bannon repeatedly that there were no legal grounds for his refusal to turn over documents and testify before the committee.
Corcoran showed the jury the letter that Trump sent to Bannon on July 9, 2022 — just two weeks ago — in which Trump said he would waive executive privilege so Bannon could testify before the committee. He also displayed the letter that Bannon’s former attorney, Robert Costello, sent the committee on the same day saying that Bannon was now willing to testify in a public hearing.
But Amerling then read aloud from the letter that the committee sent to Costello in response, noting that Bannon’s latest offer “does not change the fact that Mr. Bannon failed to follow [proper] process and failed to comply with the Select Committee’s subpoena prior to the House referral of the contempt resolution concerning Mr. Bannon’s defiance of the subpoena.”
Prosecutor Amanda Vaughn noted that before two weeks ago, Bannon never offered to comply with the subpoena, even after being told repeatedly by the committee last year that his claims had no basis in law and that he could face prosecution; even after he was found in contempt of Congress in October last year; even after he was criminally charged a month later for contempt of Congress; and even after a lawsuit related to executive privilege had been resolved by the Supreme Court six months ago.
Amerling testified that had Bannon complied with the subpoena in time, the committee would have had “at least nine months of additional time” to review the information, and now there are “five or so months” left of the committee.
“So as opposed to having 14 in total, the committee only now has five?” Corcoran asked.
“That’s correct,” said Amerling.
Jul 20, 3:48 PM EDT
Defense argues Bannon was constrained by questions over executive privilege
In the defense’s ongoing cross examination of Jan. 6 committee staffer Kirstin Amerling, attorney Evan Corcoran continued to stress how Bannon was prevented from testifying due to the right of executive privilege that protects confidential communication with members of the executive branch.
But Amerling testified that there are two main issues with such a claim.
First, she said, some of what the subpoena requested “had nothing to do with communication with the former president” and “could not possibly be reached by executive privilege” — especially Bannon’s communications with campaign advisers, members of Congress and other private parties, as well as information related to Bannon’s podcast, she testified.
In addition, despite what others may have said, “The president had not formally or informally invoked executive privilege,” Amerling said. “It hadn’t been invoked.”
Yet Bannon still refused to comply with the subpoena, despite having no legal grounds to do so, she said.
Amerling reiterated that by the time the committee met to decide whether to pursue contempt charges, “there had been extensive back-and-forth already between the select committee and the defendant’s attorney about the issue of executive privilege, and the select committee had made its position clear.”
Corcoran also argued that Bannon didn’t comply with the subpoena right away because he expected the deadline would ultimately change, due to the fact that it’s common for subpoena deadlines to shift.
Amerling, however, testified that Bannon’s situation was different.
“When witnesses are cooperating with the committee and indicate they are willing to provide testimony, it is not unusual to have some back-and-forth about the dates that they will appear,” she said. However, she said, “it is very unusual for witnesses who receive a subpoena to say outright they will not comply.”
In his questions, Corcoran also suggested that Amerling might be a biased witness, noting that she had donated to Democratic causes in the past, and that she is a member of the same book club as one of the prosecutors in the case, Molly Gaston.
“So you’re in a book club with the prosecutor in this case?” Corcoran asked.
“We are,” Amerling replied.
Amerling said that it had been some time — perhaps as much as a year or more — since she and Gaston both attended a meeting of the club. But she conceded that, with the types of people who are in the book club, it was “not unusual that we would talk about politics in some way or another.”
Jul 20, 12:55 PM EDT
Defense attorney presses Jan. 6 staffer on timing of subpoena deadline
Under cross-examination from Bannon defense attorney Evan Corcoran, House Jan. 6 committee senior staffer Kristin Amerling was pressed on why the committee set the deadlines it did for Bannon to comply with the subpoena — especially since “the select committee is still receiving and reviewing documents” now, Corcoran said.
Corcoran pressed Amerling over who specifically decided that Bannon should have to produce documents by 10 a.m. on Oct. 7, 2021, and who specifically decided that Bannon should have to appear for a deposition on Oct. 14, 2021.
Amerling said that the “process” of drafting the subpoena involved many people, including senior staff like herself, but it was all ultimately approved by committee Chairman Bennie Thompson.
“To the best of my recollection, because of the multiple roles that we understood Mr. Bannon potentially had with respect to the events of Jan. 6, at the time that we put the subpoena together, there was a general interest in obtaining information from him expeditiously, because we believed this information could potentially lead us to other relevant witnesses or other relevant documents,” Amerling said. “There was general interest in including deadlines that required expeditious response.”
“The committee authorization is just through the end of this year,” so it is operating under “a very tight timeframe,” she said.
Corcoran also said he wanted to made clear to the jury that, as he put it, “in this case, there is no allegation that Steve Bannon was involved in the attack” on the Capitol.
Earlier, Amerling testified that the committee tried to give Bannon “an opportunity” to explain his “misconduct” in ignoring the subpoena and to provide “information that might shed light on his misconduct, such as he might have been confused” about the subpoena — but Bannon never presented any such explanation or information before he was found in contempt, she said.
Jul 20, 11:17 AM EDT
Jan. 6 staffer says panel ‘rejected the basis’ for Bannon’s privilege claim
Kristin Amerling, a senior staffer on the House Jan. 6 committee, returned to the stand to continue her testimony from Tuesday. She testified that Bannon was clearly informed that any claims of privilege were rejected by the committee, and that his non-compliance “would force” the committee to refer the matter to the Justice Department for prosecution.
She said the subpoena issued to Bannon indicated he was “required to produce” records encompassing 17 specific categories, including records related to the Jan. 6 rally near the White House, his communications with Trump allies and several right-wing groups, his communications with Republican lawmakers, and information related to his “War Room” podcast.
The committee was seeking to understand “the relationships or potential relationships between different individuals and organizations that played a role in Jan. 6,” Amerling said. “We wanted to ask him what he knew.”
Asked by prosecutor Amanda Vaughn if Bannon provided any records to the committee by the deadline of 10 a.m. on Oct. 7, 2021, Amerling replied, “He did not.”
“Did the committee get anything more than radio silence by 10 a.m. on Oct. 7?” Vaughn asked.
“No,” said Amerling.
Amerling said that in a correspondence she received that day at about 5 p.m. — after the deadline had passed — Bannon’s attorney at the time, Robert Costello, claimed that Trump had “announced his intention to assert” executive privilege, which Costello said at the time rendered Bannon “unable to respond” to the subpoena “until these issues are resolved.”
But the next day, Amerling recalled on the stand, she sent Costello a letter from Jan. 6 committee chairman Bennie Thompson, “explaining that the committee rejected the basis that he had offered for refusing to comply.”
“Did the letter also tell the defendant he still had to comply?” Vaughn asked Amerling.
“Yes, it did.” Amerling said.
“Did the letter warn the defendant what might happen if he failed to comply with the subpoena?” Vaughn asked.
“Yes, it did,” said Amerling.
The letter was “establishing a clear record of the committee’s views, making sure the defendant was aware of that,” Amerling testified.
Jul 20, 10:06 AM EDT
Judge won’t let trial become ‘political circus,’ he says
Federal prosecutors in Steve Bannon’s contempt trial raised concerns with the judge that Bannon’s team has been suggesting to the jury that this is a “politically motivated prosecution” before the second day of testimony got underway Wednesday morning.
Before the jury was brought in, prosecutor Amanda Vaughn asked U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols to make sure the jury “doesn’t hear one more word about this case being” politically motivated, after she said the defense’s opening statement Tuesday had “clear implications” that the defense was making that claim.
Nichols had barred such arguments from the trial.
In response, defense attorney Evan Corcoran defended his opening statement, saying it “was clearly on the line.”
Nichols then made it clear that during trial, the defense team may ask witnesses questions about whether they themselves may be biased — “but may not ask questions about whether someone else was biased in an action they took outside this courtroom.”
“I do not intend for this to become a political case, a political circus,” Nichols said.
Jul 19, 6:14 PM EDT
Bannon, outside courtroom, criticizes Jan. 6 panel
Speaking to reporters after the first full day in court, Bannon blasted members of the Jan. 6 committee and House Democrats for not showing up as witnesses in his trial.
“Where is Bennie Thompson?” asked Bannon regarding the Jan. 6 committee chairman. “He’s made it a crime, not a civil charge … have the guts and the courage to show up here and say exactly why it’s a crime.”
“I will promise you one thing when the Republicans that are sweeping to victory on Nov. 8 — starting in January, you’re going to get a real committee,” Bannon said. “We’re going to get a real committee with a ranking member who will be a Democrat … and this will be run
appropriately and the American people will get the full story.”
-Laura Romero and Soo Rin Kim
Jul 19, 5:23 PM EDT
A subpoena isn’t voluntary, says prosecution witness
The first witness for the prosecution, Kristin Amerling of the Jan. 6 committee, testified that a subpoena is not voluntary.
Amerling, the Jan. 6 panel’s deputy staff director and chief counsel, read aloud the congressional resolution creating the committee and explained that the committee’s role is to recommend “corrective measures” to prevent future attacks like the one on Jan. 6.
“Is a subpoena voluntary in any way?” asked prosecutor Amanda Vaughn.
“No,” Amerling replied.
Amerling also discussed how important it is to get information in a timely manner because the committee’s authority runs out at the end of the year. “There is an urgency to the focus of the Select Committee’s work … we have a limited amount of time in which to gather information,” she said.
Amerling noted that Bannon was subpoenaed pretty early on in the committee’s investigation.
She said the committee subpoenaed Bannon in particular because public accounts indicated that Bannon tried to persuade the public that the 2020 election was “illegitimate”; that on his podcast the day before Jan. 6 he made statements “including that all hell was going to break loose, that suggested he might have some advance knowledge of the events of Jan. 6”; that he was involved in discussions with White House officials, including Trump himself, relating to “strategies surrounding the events of Jan. 6”; and that he had been involved in discussions in the days leading up to Jan. 6 with “private parties who had gathered in the Willard hotel in Washington, D.C., reportedly to discuss strategies around efforts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power or overturning the election results.”
“Is that something that would have been relevant to the committee’s investigation?” Vaughn asked.
“Yes, because the Select Committee was tasked with trying to understand what happened on Jan. 6, and why,” Amerling replied.
Amerling will be back on the stand Wednesday morning when the trial resumes.
Jul 19, 3:55 PM EDT
Defense tells jury ‘there was no ignoring the subpoena’
Bannon’s defense attorney Matt “Evan” Corcoran said in his opening statement that “no one ignored the subpoena” issued to Bannon, and that “there was direct engagement by Bob Costello,” Bannon’s attorney, with the House committee, specifically committee staffer Kristin Amerling.
He said Costello “immediately” communicated to the committee that there was an objection to the subpoena, “and that Steve Bannon could not appear and that he could not provide documents.”
“So there was no ignoring the subpoena,” Corcoran said. What followed was “a considerable back and forth” between Amerling and Costello — “they did what two lawyers do, they negotiated.”
Corcoran said, “the government wants you to believe … that Mr. Bannon committed a crime by not showing up to a congressional hearing room … but the evidence is going to be crystal clear no one, no one believed Mr. Bannon was going to appear on Oct. 14, 2021,” and the reasons he couldn’t appear had been articulated to the committee.
Corcoran told the jury that the government has to prove beyond a reasonable that Steve Bannon willfully defaulted when he didn’t appear for the deposition on Oct. 14, 2021 — “but you’ll find from the evidence that that date on the subpoena was the subject of ongoing discussions” and it was not “fixed.”
In addition, Corcoran told jurors, you will hear that “almost every single one” of the witnesses subpoenaed led to negotiations between committee staff and lawyers, and often the appearance would be at a later date than what was on the subpoena.
Corcoran also argued that the prosecution may have been infected by politics, telling the jury that with each document or each statement provided at trial, they should ask themselves: “Is this piece of evidence affected by politics?”
Jul 19, 3:31 PM EDT
Prosecutors say Bannon’s failure to comply was deliberate
Continuing her opening statement, federal prosecutor Amanda Vaughn told the jury that the subpoena to Bannon directed him to provide documents by the morning of Oct. 7, 2021, and to appear for a deposition the morning of Oct. 14, 2021 — but instead he had an attorney, Robert Costello, send a letter to the committee informing the committee that he would not comply “in any way,” she said.
“The excuse the defendant gave for not complying” was the claim that “a privilege” meant he didn’t have to turn over certain information, Vaughn said. “[But] it’s not up to the defendant or anyone else to decide if he can ignore the [request] based on a privilege, it’s up to the committee.”
And, said Vaughn, the committee clearly told Bannon that “your privilege does not get you out of this one, you have to provide documents, and you have to come to your deposition.” And importantly, she said, the committee told Bannon that “a refusal to comply” could result in criminal prosecution.
“You will see, the defendant’s failure to comply was deliberate here,” Vaughn told the jury. “The only verdict that is supported by the evidence here: that the defendant showed his contempt for the U.S. Congress, and that he’s guilty.”
Jul 19, 2:58 PM EDT
Prosecution begins opening statements
Federal prosecutor Amanda Vaughn began opening statements by saying, “In September of last year, Congress needed information from the defendant, Steve Bannon. … Congress needed to know what the defendant knew about the events of Jan. 6, 2021. … Congress had gotten information that the defendant might have some details about the events leading up to that day and what occurred that day.”
So, Vaughn told the jury, Congress gave Bannon a subpoena “that mandated” he provide any information he might have.
“Congress was entitled to the information it sought, it wasn’t optional,” Vaughn said. “But as you will learn in this trial, the defendant refused to hand over the information he might have.”
Vaughn said Bannon ignored “multiple warnings” that he could face criminal prosecution for refusing to comply with the subpoena and for preventing the government from getting “important information.”
“The defendant decided he was above the law and decided he didn’t need to follow the government’s orders,” she said.
Jul 19, 2:51 PM EDT
Judge instructs jury of the burden of proof
Prior to opening statements, the judge made clear to the jury that the Justice Department has the burden to prove four distinct elements “beyond a reasonable doubt”:
(1) that Bannon was in fact subpoenaed for testimony and/or documents;
(2) that the testimony and/or documents were “pertinent” to the Jan. 6 committee’s investigation;
(3) that Bannon “failed to comply or refused to comply” with the subpoena;
(4) that the “failure or refusal to comply was willful.”
Jul 19, 2:44 PM EDT
Jury sworn in after judge denies continuance
A 14-member jury has been sworn in for the contempt trial of ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon.
Of the 14 jurors, nine are men and five are women.
The swearing-in of the jury comes after U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols denied the defense’s request for a one-month delay of the trial, which attorneys for Bannon argued was necessary due to a “seismic shift in the understanding of the parties” of what the government’s evidence will be.
“We have a jury that is just about picked,” Nichols said in denying the request for a one-month continuance.
One of the jurors, a man who works for an appliance company, said Monday during jury selection that he watched the first Jan. 6 committee hearing and believes the committee is “trying to find the truth about what happened” on Jan. 6.
Another juror, a man who works as a maintenance manager for the Washington, D.C., Parks and Recreation department, said he believes what happened on Jan. 6 “doesn’t make sense.”
Another juror, a woman who works as a photographer for NASA, said “a lot” of her “photographer friends were at the Capitol” on Jan. 6, and she has watched some of the Jan. 6 hearings on the news.
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