Takeaways From Day 3 of the Steve Bannon Contempt of Congress Trial
On the third day of Steve Bannon’s trial, the prosecution rested its case after adopting a strategy that kept its arguments straightforward and easy to understand for the jury.
In the House investigation that began on January 6, the Justice Department called only two witnesses to testify against former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena.
Prosecutors led the jury through the paper trail of documents conveying to Bannon that the October deadlines for him to produce documents and sit for a testimony through their questioning of House committee staffer Kristin Amerling.
Meanwhile, Bannon’s team grabbed at straws, such as Bannon’s recent offer to testify before the committee, to imply that Bannon had reason to believe that the deadline wasn’t firm and to hint at supposed bias against him.
Takeaways From Day 3 of the Trial
Prosecutors’ paper trail strengthens their case against Bannon
The testimony on Wednesday was largely driven by the letters exchanged between the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection and Bannon.
The prosecution was able to put on display the paper trail of documents the committee sent Bannon regarding his subpoena through its questioning of Amerling, undermining several defenses Bannon might try to put forward.
According to the papers, Bannon was warned that a referral to law enforcement would result from his refusal to comply with the subpoena. They demonstrated that the committee did not believe Trump’s assertions of executive privilege justified his refusal to cooperate. Additionally, they demonstrated that the committee reaffirmed the subpoena due dates and that lawmakers still expected him to comply by that time.
According to Bannon’s people, the committee gave him the flexibility
After a string of rulings against Bannon, District Judge Carl Nichols ruled on Wednesday that his team could submit the recent letters from Bannon’s attorney and Trump, clearing him to testify before the committee. A letter from committee chairman Bennie Thompson to committee member Steve Bannon last week in response to Bannon’s offer to testify for the committee was also admitted as part of the ruling.
At this trial, the Bannon camp has had hardly any evidence to present. Therefore, the defense team’s ability to use the letters in their questioning of Amerling was a unique opportunity to bolster Bannon’s defense and cast a darker shadow over the case than the Justice Department had intended. To support their claim that the October return dates were not firm deadlines but rather flexible inflection points in the negotiation over Bannon’s cooperation, Bannon’s team hoped to use the correspondences.
It’s possible that a jury will preside over the trial
After reading public statements from Bannon saying he would stand with Donald Trump and links on his social media accounts to stories describing him as not complying with the committee, even after one subpoena deadline passed, FBI agent Stephen Hart answered a few questions, and the Justice Department quickly wrapped up its case on Wednesday.
The next question is how many witnesses Bannon’s legal team will call in his defense. If they don’t call any witnesses and Bannon doesn’t give testimony, deliberations could begin in the afternoon.
Call out the Democrats
The attorneys and the judge began Wednesday’s hearing by questioning whether or not this case would turn into a political circus.
Nichols vowed that he would stop it from happening.
However, during the hours of questioning by defense attorney Evan Corcoran, Amerling was repeatedly asked about her political views. She and the Democratic-leaning committee were accused of potentially unfairly singling out Bannon from among their thousands of witnesses, and the questions were designed to show that to the Washington, DC jury.
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