U.S. says Bannon 'chose to show contempt' – The Washington Post

Tuesday’s proceedings have wrapped up in Bannon’s trial
Bannon denounces Jan. 6 committee ‘show trial’ outside courthouse
First U.S. witness cites ‘urgency’ of Bannon cooperation to House
Defense lawyer: Bannon was still negotiating with Congress
Bannon ‘decided he was above the law,’ prosecutor says
Bannon jury includes 9 men, 5 women; over half work with government
Bannon judge denies one-month delay over evidence confusion
Bannon’s trial could be brief after judge blocked many of his defenses
Jury selection started with a pool of 60 D.C. residents
Who is Steve Bannon?
Tuesday’s proceedings have wrapped up in Bannon’s trial
Bannon denounces Jan. 6 committee ‘show trial’ outside courthouse
First U.S. witness cites ‘urgency’ of Bannon cooperation to House
Defense lawyer: Bannon was still negotiating with Congress
Bannon ‘decided he was above the law,’ prosecutor says
Bannon jury includes 9 men, 5 women; over half work with government
Bannon judge denies one-month delay over evidence confusion
Bannon’s trial could be brief after judge blocked many of his defenses
Jury selection started with a pool of 60 D.C. residents
Who is Steve Bannon?
Arguments in the federal trial of former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon launched Tuesday afternoon, with prosecutors saying in opening statements that Bannon “decided he was above the law” and the defense saying the case against him arose from a politically charged Congress. The day’s proceedings wrapped with one witness testifying, and the trial is expected to resume Wednesday.
The right-wing podcaster is charged with two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with an order from the House Jan. 6 committee to turn over records and testify about his actions ahead of the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In declining to testify and turn over records, Bannon claimed executive privilege, and his attorney said he was contacted by Trump attorney Justin Clark and instructed not to respond. But during a pretrial hearing this month, the judge overseeing the case rejected several of Bannon’s defenses, including the executive privilege claim. The judge narrowed Bannon’s defenses at trial mainly to whether he understood the deadlines for answering lawmakers’ demands.
The high-profile trial comes amid closely watched televised hearings of the very panel that Bannon rebuffed. It’s unclear how long his trial may take or whether he will testify in his own case.
Read a recap of Tuesday’s proceedings here.
Testimony concluded Tuesday in Stephen K. Bannon’s contempt of Congress trial.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols dismissed jurors and instructed them to return to court by 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Return to The Washington Post tomorrow for continuing coverage. Read a recap of Tuesday’s developments here.
After the trial ended for the day, Stephen K. Bannon went to a bank of microphones outside the courthouse and lashed out at the House Jan. 6 committee for launching a “show trial” in which he is accused of criminal contempt of Congress for failing to respond to the committee’s subpoena.
After the first witness of the trial, the committee’s deputy staff director Kristin Amerling, testified for about an hour about the committee’s subpoena process, U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols recessed the case for the day. Bannon then went outside and tore into the elected members of the committee for not appearing themselves to make the criminal case against him.
“I challenge [Rep.] Bennie Thompson to show up here,” Bannon said, naming other members of the committee, “or send somebody on the committee that has the guts to come here and accuse somebody of a crime. It is outrageous.” He then launched into conspiratorial criticism about the lack of evidence of FBI or Department of Homeland Security involvement in Jan. 6, “or any testimony about any other involvement in what’s driving this.”
“We have a constitutional crisis in this nation right now and they’re charging me with a crime,” Bannon continued. “Have the guts and the courage to show up here and say exactly why it’s a crime. Bennie Thompson is an absolute disgrace and the show trial they’re running is a disgrace.”
Justice Department prosecutors gave an opening statement in which they said that Bannon failed to comply with a subpoena for documents and testimony last October. Bannon’s lawyer M. Evan Corcoran responded that Bannon was trying to negotiate with the committee and “he’s innocent of the charges.”
The government’s first witness was the general counsel to the House Jan. 6 committee, Kristin Amerling, who told jurors of the “urgency” of lawmakers’ work and witnesses’ cooperation.
The Jan. 6 committee’s charge is to investigate the circumstances and causes of “the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol,” including any foreign influence operations and campaigns that may have factored into it, Amerling said.
“There is an urgency to the select committee’s work. The select committee is looking at a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, on law enforcement and on our democracy, and we have a limited amount of time in which to gather information,” even as the threat to democratic institutions continues, she said.
Amerling explained to jurors that lawmakers were probing accounts that Stephen K. Bannon played “multiple roles” related to the Jan. 6 attack, including persuading the public that the 2020 election was illegitimate and predicting on Jan. 5 that “all hell was going to break loose” the next day, suggesting that he might have had advance knowledge of events. Amerling said lawmakers also wanted to learn about whether Bannon had been involved in conversations with people in the White House, including President Donald Trump, and at the Willard hotel with third parties “reportedly to discuss strategies around efforts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power or overturn the election results.”
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols interceded to instruct jurors not to take Amerling’s statement as evidence that Bannon indeed did those things but as evidence of the committee’s reasons for seeking his testimony and records.
Amerling read into evidence the committee’s Sept. 23, 2021, subpoena to Bannon for documents and his testimony and its October deadlines. Prosecutors then said they were ready to wrap up for the day and resume their examination on Wednesday.
Stephen K. Bannon was still negotiating with the House committee probing the Jan. 6 attack in late 2021, the time period when federal prosecutors charge he refused to provide documents or oral testimony to the panel, Bannon’s lawyer told the jury in opening arguments.
“No one ignored the subpoena,” said the lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran, arguing that his client did not commit criminal contempt of Congress, the charge against him. “It’s called negotiation, it’s called accommodation … that’s not an excuse.”
Corcoran said the case against Bannon arose out of a politically charged Congress. The House in October voted to hold Bannon in contempt in a 229-202 vote, mostly along party lines.
Corcoran urged the jurors to question whether pieces of evidence in the case are motivated by politics. “My single request for you is to think about it and ask yourself: Is this piece of evidence affected by politics?” he said.
Corcoran’s appeal to the jury to consider the politics of the Bannon case prompted prosecutors to twice raise objections to his opening statement.
Former Trump chief political strategist Stephen K. Bannon “decided he was above the law” and “chose to show contempt” for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by refusing to meet deadlines for testifying and turning over documents in response to a September subpoena, prosecutors charged Tuesday.
“That’s a crime,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn told a jury in federal court in Washington in a brief, blunt and almost terse opening statement of under 20 minutes. “The defendant decided he was above the law, and he didn’t have to follow the government’s orders like his fellow citizens, and that’s why we’re here today.”
Congress was entitled to information because its subpoena “wasn’t a request, and it wasn’t an invitation. It was mandatory,” Vaughn said. The prosecutor said jurors would see a series of letters by the committee rejecting Bannon’s claim that former president Donald Trump had invoked executive privilege barring his cooperation and warning him he could be criminally prosecuted if he did not respond by Oct. 18, his final deadline.
That deadline came and went without any effort at compliance or any different justification, triggering Congress’s eventual vote referring Bannon for prosecution, according to Vaughn.
“It’s not up to the defendant or anyone else whether he can ignore subpoena deadlines for testimony and documents. It’s up to the committee. And the committee told him his claims of privilege did not excuse him from complying,” Vaughn said.
She argued Bannon’s avoidance of the subpoena was deliberate and the case is “that simple.” She also accused Bannon of “thumbing his nose at the orderly processes of government,” saying such actions can thwart the system’s ability to function.
“It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a mistake. It was a decision. It was a choice,” Vaughn said. “He just decided not to follow the rules.”
The jury selected to hear the contempt of Congress trial of former top Trump political strategist Stephen K. Bannon includes nine men and five women, and more than half of the 14 work for federal or D.C. government agencies or contractors.
The panel of 12 jurors and two alternates was seated about 2 p.m. and was read trial instructions before opening statements by U.S. prosecutors and Bannon’s defense.
The jury’s federal workers include a Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer; an employee with the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom; a NASA contract photographer and archivist; a recently hired employee the U.S. International Development Finance Corp., the United States’ development bank for emerging markets; and an employee of the International Republican Institute, a democracy and development agency that receives funding from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Its D.C. government employees include a Parks and Recreation maintenance manager; a Transportation Department contract driver for special-needs children; and a supervisor with a Health Department pandemic vaccination contractor.
Other jurors include a commercial residential architect; a university hospital janitor; an online art seller; and people who work with a Takoma Park appliance distribution company and the EnviroCorps job training group.
The juror who works with the appliance company said he watched the first prime-time televised hearing of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying during jury selection, “I understand everyone wants to figure out what was going on, to figure out the truth of what happened.”
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols warned jurors that they are not permitted to discuss the case nor their service on Bannon’s jury with anyone except each other, only during deliberations, and to not read any news or information about the case throughout the trial.
“You must not use electronic devices or communications to talk about this case with anyone at all, or about your jury service,” Nichols said.
The trial of former Donald Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon on charges of contempt of Congress got off to a bumpy start Tuesday morning as the judge, defense lawyers and prosecutors seemed to disagree on what evidence a jury could hear related to Bannon’s talks with the Jan. 6 committee.
U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols denied a request by Bannon’s team to delay the proceedings for a month.
The jury panel had been nearly assembled Tuesday for Bannon’s trial on two counts of contempt of Congress for allegedly refusing to provide testimony or documents to the committee, and opening statements were expected to begin.
But an hour-long discussion outside the presence of jurors revealed a fundamental misunderstanding over how much of the committee’s correspondence with Bannon could be shown to the jury — evidence that related to the ex-presidential adviser’s understanding of the subpoena deadline at issue in the case.
The judge said Tuesday that his previous rulings allowed Bannon to offer a rationale for why he may have thought the committee’s deadlines were not fixed. Lawyers representing Bannon did not think they could enter that territory, according to their understanding of the parameters that Nichols had previously set.
One of Bannon’s lawyers called the judge’s comments Tuesday “a seismic shift” in their understanding of what they could present to the jury. “There are a lot of moving pieces,” said the lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran. “We simply have not done the type of defense preparation we would have.”
Corcoran asked for a one-month delay in the trial so they could recalibrate their strategy. The judge seemed frustrated that the lawyers did not seem to understand his previous rulings and called a recess to consider the issue.
Former Trump adviser and right-wing podcaster Stephen K. Bannon promised that the contempt of Congress charges against him would become a “misdemeanor from hell” for the Biden administration, but after judicial rulings against his proposed defense, legal experts said his trial could be more of a quick trip through court.
At a recent hearing that left Bannon’s legal strategy in tatters, his lawyer David Schoen asked U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols, “What’s the point of going to trial if there are no defenses?” The judge replied simply: “Agreed.”
The exchange was a remarkable comedown for the combative, bombastic Bannon team that live-streamed his declaration, “we’re taking down the Biden regime,” as he surrendered to the FBI in late 2021 on charges he had illegally flouted a subpoena from the House committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
Read more legal analysis of Bannon’s trial here.
Jury selection in the trial began Monday morning, and by day’s end, the pool of 60 D.C. residents had nearly been finalized to a group of 22 prospective jurors.
Eighteen people were ruled out Monday during day-long vetting by the judge, federal prosecutors and the defense, including several who said under oath that they had formed opinions they were not certain they could set aside regarding the conduct of President Donald Trump’s former chief White House strategist, who is alleged to have ignored a committee subpoena for records and testimony in October.
“I would try to [set aside my opinions] but can’t guarantee it 100 percent,” said one prospective juror, who identified herself as a social media manager for a Washington museum and who was dropped from the case at the government’s request.
“It would seem cut and dried, the same way I received a notice to come here” to court for jury duty, said another man, who handles contracts for a small private company, and who was excluded from jury service after Bannon’s lawyers objected.
Read more about the jury selection in Bannon’s trial here.
Perhaps no one but the former president himself is more closely associated with Trumpism than Steve Bannon.
A former investment banker and Hollywood producer, Bannon used the far-right website Breitbart News to tug the GOP in a more populist and nationalist direction, preparing the way for Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency. He served as CEO of Trump’s 2016 campaign and chief strategist in the White House.
Following his departure from the administration and return to Breitbart, Bannon faced Trump’s ire over critical comments about the president’s adult children included in Michael Wolff’s 2018 “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” But he made his way back into Trump’s good graces, and, after he was indicted on charges of defrauding donors to a crowdfunding campaign for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, he received a pardon from Trump in January 2021.
By that time, Bannon had used a new media venture, a show called “War Room,” broadcast from the basement of his Capitol Hill townhouse, to make himself the chief spokesman for Trump’s movement. On the show, he parrots Trump’s false claims of election fraud and whips his audience up in opposition to what he calls the “illegitimate Biden regime.”
The show is distributed by a network called Real America’s Voice, which is led by a little-known media mogul in Colorado and which one former producer described as “Trump propaganda.”
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