Defense rests in blowhard Steve Bannon’s contempt of Congress trial, deliberations begin Friday

Defense rests in blowhard Steve Bannon’s contempt of Congress trial, deliberations begin Friday

July 21, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

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On Thursday afternoon, per CNN and NBC, Bannon’s defense team rested its case and put jurors on a path toward a verdict. Deliberations, though always hard to predict, likely won’t take long and will unfold Friday. 

Bannon opted not to testify on his own behalf. His attorney David Schoen said in court Thursday that Bannon was aware it was his right to take the stand and that he “has very much wanted to do so since the day he was indicted.” 

But he ultimately would not do so, Schoen argued, because his testimony would directly conflict with what Bannon says he believes about advice his former lawyer, Robert Costello, gave him with regard to cooperating with the Jan. 6 probe.

USA Today reported that Schoen said Bannon would “be barred from telling true facts.”

Ahead of trial, Bannon argued that Costello told him former President Donald Trump had asserted executive privilege over his interactions with the committee.

But that privilege assertion never happened, according to the committee members and an attorney for Trump, Justin Clark. Clark said the privilege was not invoked over Bannon when Clark sat for an interview with the FBI on June 29, per court records filed earlier this month.

RELATED STORY: Bannon is sowing confusion ahead of his contempt trial: A brief explainer

No Privilege Invoked Bannon Clark by Daily Kos on Scribd

Notably, days before Bannon’s trial, Trump issued a letter claiming he was waiving privilege over Bannon so he could fully cooperate with the committee. Trump’s waiver was moot since there was no proof he ever asserted it anyway.

During pretrial hearings, presiding U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols ruled that Bannon would not be allowed to present any evidence supporting his claims of executive privilege asserted by Trump because they were meritless, but he did agree to let Bannon’s attorneys argue before jurors that he was merely unaware of the deadline of the subpoena and its flexibility.

But according to CBS affiliate WUSA9, that changed in court on Wednesday when Nichols decided to allow letters—including the one from Trump issued this month—into evidence.

Prosecutors objected on grounds that the documents might be confusing. They were overruled. During witness questioning, assistant U.S. attorney Amanda Vaughn sought to clarify matters by asking the select committee’s general counsel, Kristen Amerling, if Trump’s letter or the others tied to executive privilege admitted into evidence changed how Bannon has responded to the subpoena. 

When Vaughn asked Amerling if Bannon had yet provided a single document to the committee since Trump’s supposed waiver, she replied: “Not unless he’s provided some since I’ve been sitting here today.”

Amerling also reportedly said that Costello never asked for an extension on the subpoena deadline. Costello almost purely relied on the already-thin executive privilege argument.

Per Politico, a special agent for the FBI, Stephen Hart, testified against Bannon, too. Hart described Bannon’s social media posts on the site GETTR to jurors and noted how the ‘War Room’ podcast host would regularly boast online about his non-compliance with the Capitol assault probe. 

Bannon unsuccessfully pushed for other witnesses to appear for questioning at trial, including the chairman of the Jan. 6 committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson, and members of House leadership like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and majority leader Steny Hoyer, among others.

Questions for Thompson would have reportedly revolved around the details of the Sept. 23, 2021, subpoena and its legitimacy, as well as why Thompson set the deadline as he did. The deadline for Bannon’s records production was Oct. 7, 2021, with an appearance in person requested for Oct. 14, 2021. 

Per NBC News, Judge Nichols asked Schoen on Thursday why Bannon was intent on having Thompson testify and not the entire committee. Schoen said he thought, in fact, Bannon was “entitled to have the whole committee here, quite frankly.”

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