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July 21 Steve Bannon trial news

Why former White House Press Secretary believes Trump was aware of Bannon's plan

What we covered here

  • Former President Trump aide Steve Bannon is on trial on misdemeanor contempt of Congress charges for failing to comply with subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
  • Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to the contempt charges, did not take the stand Thursday, and his team did not present any case to the jury. If found guilty, each charge carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.
  • The Jan. 6 committee said it wanted to obtain Bannon’s documents and ask him questions because he had contact with Trump as the riot unfolded. Bannon’s case is a major test of what leverage Congress has when a witness evades a House subpoena.

Our live coverage has ended. See how today’s events unfolded in the posts below.

19 Posts

Jury is dismissed for the day, leaving instructions, closing arguments and deliberations for Friday

Judge Carl Nichols has dismissed the jury for the day, and they therefore will not begin their deliberations before the House select Jan. 6 committee hearing tonight.

Nichols brought the jury in first before dismissing them so that he could explain where the proceedings stood. The proceedings had taken a short recess for the jury to be brought back in before their dismissal.

The jury was sent home as the judge works on some legal decisions that need to happen at the end of the case.

The jurors were told not to consume media tonight — after the prosecutors reminded the judge of the House hearing.

What happens next: This means Bannon’s jury will be instructed on how to consider the case, then hear prosecutors’ and defense closing arguments Friday. After that, they will begin deliberations.

Steve Bannon's defense team rests its case after he declines to testify 

With they jury in the courtroom, Steve Bannon’s attorney Evan Corcoran announced around 2:30 p.m. ET: “Your honor, the defense rests.”

That concludes the portion of evidence presentation of Bannon’s contempt trial, and leaves the jury with no evidence to hear from the defense side.

Bannon’s team earlier Thursday announced they would not call any witnesses nor would Bannon testify in his own defense. But the jury had not been told, because the attorneys and judge were discussing other legal issues in the case and plans for the procedural steps of the trial that will take place on Friday.

Defense attorney explains why Steve Bannon didn't testify

Steve Bannon in federal court on Thursday, July 21.

David Schoen, Steve Bannon’s lawyer, told the court Thursday that the former Trump aide did not testify in his own defense because he was unable to use various reasons his attorneys tried to argue in the trial but were not allowed under the law.

However, Bannon would not be able to be “telling the true facts” if he took the stand, Schoen added, citing Bannon’s belief that his lawyer advised him not to testify after former President Donald Trump raised the possibility of asserting executive privilege in a letter to him.

That lawyer for Bannon, Robert Costello, didn’t testify as a defense witness for the same reasons, Schoen said.

Bannon confirmed for the judge that he wouldn’t testify.

“Yes, your honor,” he said, standing halfway up to address the court when asked if he was waiving his right.

Here's a look at the federal courtroom where day 4 of Steve Bannon's trial is underway

Steve Bannon in federal court on Thursday, July 21. 

Here’s a look at artist Bill Hennessy’s sketch from day four of federal court proceedings during former President Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon’s trial on charges of contempt of Congress.

There are no cameras allowed in the federal courtroom in Washington, DC, but the artist’s sketch provides a glimpse of the events unfolding inside.

The sketch shows defense attorney David Schoen speaking as Bannon sits behind him.

Steve Bannon's defense team lays out why they wanted committee members to testify at trial

Steve Bannon’s defense attorney David Schoen is currently making arguments for why the former Trump aide’s inability to call Jan. 6 committee members to the stand harmed his defense.

Schoen is going over everything he’d like to ask the select committee Chairman Bennie Thompson: Why was the subpoena necessary? Why were the deadlines what they were? Why didn’t the committee file a civil lawsuit to clear up the executive privilege issues Bannon was raising?

Judge Carl Nichols sounds skeptical, noting that the letters were what the committee was communicating to Bannon.

Nichols asks Schoen: How could what is in Thompson’s head inform Bannon’s mens rea?

Proceedings in Steve Bannon's trial have resumed

The proceedings resumed at 1:06 p.m. ET in the trial of former President Trump aide Steve Bannon.

Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to contempt charges, will not take the stand, and his team will not present any case to the jury.

Here's what comes next in Steve Bannon's trial

Steve Bannon in federal court on Thursday, July 21. 

Steve Bannon’s team announced that they will not put on a defense in his trial where the former President Trump aide is charged for contempt of Congress.

This means that it’s possible that jury deliberations will begin today.

But there are other procedural steps and pending motions that the judge and the parties still have to work through before the proceedings reach that point.

Now that US District Judge Carl Nichols has called a recess, he has instructed the parties to do a final round of discussions about the jury instructions, and they’ll then submit their views to the judge.

When the proceedings resume at 1 p.m. ET, the parties will discuss — without the jury present — what the defense team will get to tell the jury about Bannon’s decision to not testify as well as the lack of testimony from Chair Bennie Thompson or other lawmakers who Bannon’s team attempted to subpoena for trial.

There is also a pending motion related to Bannon’s efforts to get lawmaker testimony at the trial that will be debated then too.

After that point, the proceedings may be at a point to give the jury their instructions and for the parties to deliver their closing arguments. Jury deliberations would be the next step after that.

Some trials have entire mornings or afternoons dedicated to closing arguments. But this trial was short, with only two witnesses. And opening statements took fewer than 40 minutes in total, meaning the closings could be relatively brief as well.

Court is in recess

The judge has called a recess until 1 p.m. ET, giving the jury — which has not been called in yet today — time to eat lunch as several bookkeeping matters are worked out.

Steve Bannon's team will not present a defense to the jury

Steve Bannon arrives at federal court in Washington, DC, on Thursday, July 21.

Former President Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon’s defense team will not present any case to the jury in a trial where he is charged for contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, his attorney David Schoen told the court on Thursday.

This also means Bannon himself will not take the stand, and the court may head to closing arguments and jury deliberations as soon as this afternoon.

Remember: Defendants are not required to present a case because the burden is on the Justice Department to prove its charges.

The question of what Bannon’s team might do at this stage has hung over his team for the last four days. His attorneys have protested persistently they had little to no defenses to the charges because of the way the judge set the parameters.

US District Judge Carl Nichols asked Bannon’s legal team their plan for Thursday since the prosecution rested its case Wednesday after two witnesses.

“You’re not intending to put on any evidence to the jury?” Nichols asked.
“Correct, your honor,” Schoen said.

The judge confirmed the jury will hear no more evidence in this case. The jury is not yet convened back in the courtroom Thursday.

Judge calls brief recess to consider Bannon motion for judgment of acquittal

Prosecutors had a brisk response to Steve Bannon’s arguments for a judgment of acquittal.

“The evidence is clear” that he did not provide records by Oct. 7 and testimony by Oct. 14, prosecutor Amanda Vaughn said.

Bannon’s intent was made clear, she argued, with the letters he sent to the committee indicating he wasn’t cooperating, as well as with his posts to social media. There was an additional matter the parties had a brief private discussion with the judge about.

The judge then called a five-minute recess to consider the judgment of acquittal motion.

Bannon's team continues to press for House select committee chair Bennie Thompson's testimony

Rep. Bennie Thompson during a hearing in Washington, DC on July 12.

With the Rule 29 motion arguments, Steve Bannon’s team argued that the Justice Department has failed to offer sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude Bannon committed a crime.

Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran pointed to House staffer Kristin Amerling’s inability to testify that she saw Chair Bennie Thompson sign the subpoena and her inability to say who wrote what parts of the subpoena letter or decide the return dates. Corcoran also reiterated that Thompson should have to testify in the case.

He also made an issue of the fact that the return dates on the subpoenas were Oct. 7 and 14 (for documents and production, respectively), but, in his telling, the indictment accuses of him committing a crime “on” Oct. 18. Judge Nichols interjected to correct Corcoran. The indictment uses the phrase “by Oct. 18,” not “on.”

Bannon argues for judge to issue judgment of acquittal

Steve Bannon attorney Evan Corcoran is beginning his arguments for why the judge should issue a judgment of acquittal in the case.

This is a typical step in the trial process, though it’s very rare for judges to grant the requests, known as Rule 29 motions. 

How much defense will Steve Bannon put on?

On day 4 of the trial of former President Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon, the big question is: How much defense will Bannon put on?

Bannon is charged for contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The prosecution in the congressional criminal contempt trial rested yesterday, after calling just two witnesses who laid out a paper trail of letters between Bannon’s lawyer and the House, warning him of contempt.

It is unknown if Bannon will call any of his own witnesses — and his attorneys have tried to convince US District Judge Carl Nichols to let them call House Select Committee chair Bennie Thompson. The judge hasn’t appeared to be on board with this thus far. Bannon could even testify himself.

Proceedings kicked off at 10:37 a.m ET. The jury is set to come in at 11 a.m ET.

It is still possible that the case goes to jury deliberations before the House Select Committee public hearing Thursday night.

Day 4 of Steve Bannon's contempt of Congress trial is underway

Thursday’s proceedings in the trial of Steve Bannon gaveled in at 10:37 a.m. ET.

Before the jury is brought in, the parties will present arguments to US District Judge Carl Nichols about certain legal issues in the case.

Key takeaways from the 2nd day of testimony in Steve Bannon's contempt of Congress trial

Prosecutors rested their case against Steve Bannon yesterday, having kept to an approach to keep things simple and straightforward for the jury. 

To present their evidence that Bannon, the ex-adviser to former President Donald Trump, was in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena in the House Jan. 6 investigation, the Justice Department put only two witnesses on the stand.

Through their questioning of House committee staffer Kristin Amerling, prosecutors walked the jury through the paper trail of documents communicating to Bannon that the October deadlines for him to produce documents and sit for testimony. Bannon’s team meanwhile grasped at what they could — including his recent offer to testify before the committee — to try to suggest that Bannon had reason to believe that the deadline wasn’t firm, while also hinting at supposed bias against him.

Here are four takeaways the third day of proceedings and the second day of testimony:

Paper trail boosts prosecutors’ case against Bannon

The pace of Wednesday’s testimony largely relied on the letters between the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and Bannon.

Several defenses that Bannon might try to put forward were undermined by the paper trail of documents the committee sent him regarding his subpoena and the prosecution was able to put those documents on display through its questioning of Amerling.

The documents showed that Bannon was warned that his noncompliance with the subpoena risked a criminal referral. They showed that the committee rejected his claims that Trump assertions of executive privilege precluded him from cooperating. And they showed that the committee reaffirmed the subpoena deadlines and lawmakers’ expectations that he comply by then.

Amerling was also questioned about the responses the committee received from Bannon’s attorney. She testified that Bannon never asked for the deadlines to be moved, nor did he give the committee reasons that in the committee’s view would help justify his lack of compliance, such as that he didn’t understand the directions of the subpoena.

Bannon’s team says committee gave him flexibility

After a series of rulings limiting his defenses, Bannon finally got a holding in his favor, with District Judge Carl Nichols on Wednesday giving his team the OK to admit his lawyer’s and Trump’s recent letters for the committee clearing him to testify. With the ruling, they also admitted a previously unreported letter committee Chairman Bennie Thompson sent last week responding to Bannon’s offer to testify for the committee.

The Bannon team has had very little to work with at this trial. So the ability to use the letters in their questioning of Amerling was a rare opportunity for them to expand Bannon’s defense — and allowed the topic of executive privilege to hang over the case more than the Justice Department had intended. Bannon’s team was seeking to use the correspondences to bolster the case that Bannon had reason to believe that the October return dates were not a hard deadline but rather flexible inflection points in the process of negotiating over Bannon’s cooperation.

In his question of Amerling, Corcoran pointed her specifically to Thompson’s indication that it would still host Bannon for testimony.

The Bannon team hopes that the jury sees that as evidence that, even when subpoenas have return dates, the process was an open-ended one and that Bannon had reason to believe that when he blew past the October deadlines, that his cooperation at later date would be an acceptable one to the committee. (The judge has instructed jurors that any future compliance by Bannon with the subpoena was not relevant to whether he was in default last year.)

Trial could conceivably sit with the jury Thursday

The Justice Department wrapped its case quickly on Wednesday with a short set of questions for its second witness, FBI agent Stephen Hart, who read public statements from Bannon that said 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.

Now the question will be how many witnesses, if any, the defense team calls to help Bannon’s cause. If they call none — and Bannon doesn’t testify, the case could conceivably head to jury deliberations by the afternoon.

One defense strategy: Call out the Democrats

Wednesday’s proceedings kicked off with a discussion between the attorneys and judge about whether the case would be a political circus. Judge Carl Nichols said he would not let it become one.

Yet during defense attorney Evan Corcoran’s hours of questioning Amerling, he repeatedly probed her politics. The questions attempted to show the Washington, DC, jury she and the Democratic-leaning committee may have unfairly singled out Bannon among their thousands of witnesses.

Corcoran was able to ask Amerling, a two-decade Hill veteran, the parties of the lawmakers she worked for and about her political contributions. Her past attendance at a book club alongside a prosecutor on the case spun into a lively set of questions. But when Bannon’s attorneys shifted to questions about the larger political dynamics of the House and the committee’s actions, the judge largely blocked them from going there.

Read more takeaways here.

Why the Jan. 6 committee wanted to find out what Bannon knew

Steve Bannon in court on Wednesday, July 20.

Steve Bannon’s defense attorney Evan Corcoran pressed witness Kristin Amerling on Wednesday about why the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riots at the US Capitol chose to pursue information from Bannon so early in their investigation — in fall 2021.

Her answer has minimally illuminated the panel’s investigation.

“By the time we put the subpoena together, there was a general interest from obtaining information from him expeditiously,” she said. The committee believed that whatever Bannon shared could lead them to other witnesses or documents, or perhaps help them know what they shouldn’t pursue, Amerling testified.

The defense has made clear they’re trying to undercut the firmness of Bannon’s subpoena deadlines by showing the committee’s work in ongoing.

“The committee is operating under a very tight timeline,” because the House select committee’s authorization ends with the end of this Congress, Amerling added under oath.

Bannon was one of the first potential Jan. 6 witnesses the House committee subpoenaed. The committee said it wanted to obtain his documents and ask him questions because Bannon had contact with former President Donald Trump. Bannon was in the so-called war room of Trump allies at the Willard hotel in Washington, DC, as the riot unfolded, and made a prediction on his podcast before the riot that “all hell” was “going to break loose.”

Some context: The Jan. 6 committee is holding its eighth public hearing on Thursday night. It says it will focus on the three-plus hours when then-President Donald Trump did not step in to stop the insurrection. It says it will lay out the inaction from Trump as the violence unfolded, select committee aides tell CNN. 

The hearing will feature testimony from individuals who spoke to Trump on Jan. 6, and individuals who were in the West Wing including live testimony from Matthew Pottinger, who served on Trump’s National Security Council, and Sarah Matthews, Trump’s former deputy press secretary, according to previous CNN reporting.

A House committee staffer took the stand yesterday. Here's what she said.

Kristin Amerling, deputy staff director of the House select committee, answered questions from both the prosecution and the defense as Steve Bannon’s trial continued on Wednesday.

Evan Corcoran, the attorney of Bannon, asked Amerling questions to demonstrate that the work of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, which subpoenaed Bannon, is ongoing. Amerling testified that the committee is still receiving and reviewing documents.

Asked if the committee’s work will continue through the end of the year, Amerling testified that its investigation is authorized through that time.

In another series of key questions, Amerling confirmed that the Jan. 6 committee did not get the cooperation from Bannon that it sought.  

“He did not” was the refrain Amerling used several times in her testimony, clearly testifying that Bannon did not comply with various requirements outlined in his congressional subpoena.

Did the defendant produce documents by Oct. 7, the deadline given on the subpoena?
“He did not.”
Did he ever ask for an extension?
“He did not.”
Did he ever say he didn’t have documents?
“He did not.”

Previously: During his opening statement on Tuesday, Corcoran said that there “was no ignoring the subpoena.” Corcoran went through the timeline around the subpoena, but not without a brief detour into a discussion of the role politics was playing.

Corcoran noted the communications between Amerling and Bannon’s lawyer Robert Costello. “The evidence is going to show there is direct engagement” between the committee staff member and Bannon’s attorney, Corcoran said.

“There was no ignoring the subpoena. There will be no evidence showing that,” he said.

What we know about the 14 jurors in Steven Bannon's trial

Steve Bannon’s trial on contempt of Congress charges finalized its jury on Tuesday.

Fourteen jurors — 9 men and 5 women — were sworn in at the federal district courthouse in Washington, DC.

The jury includes a State Department employee, an art salesperson, a NASA contractor, a doctor, an architect and a handful of DC government employees.

Some of the jurors have extensive previous experience serving on juries, according to their statements in court yesterday. The jury has 14 people because two alternates are in the pool, and won’t be disclosed publicly until deliberations.

Some context: During the first portion of Monday’s jury selection process, potential jurors were not pressed about their general feelings about Bannon or former President Trump.

They were, however, asked about their news consumption of the House investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection and about this case itself. Some said they’d consumed a little of the House hearings, if that.

Many of the potential jurors had said they’d heard minimally about Bannon’s case, yet a large number of them had taken in at least some of the select committee’s public hearings. But awareness alone wasn’t enough for them to be tossed from the jury pool.

Steve Bannon's trial enters its 3rd day of testimony today. Here's what you need to know.

Steve Bannon is on trial on two criminal charges for his failure to comply with the House’s Jan. 6, 2021, investigation 10 months after receiving subpoenas from the select committee.

The polarizing long-time Trump ally has always been at the top of the Jan. 6 witness list for House investigators. But Justice Department prosecutors say the trial is intended to punish Bannon for noncompliance with the subpoenas, rather than coerce him into sharing information.

Here are key things to know about the case:

Why the case matters: The case is a major test of what leverage Congress has when a witness evades a House subpoena. Bannon’s is the first of two similar House select committee subpoena cases to head to trial; a contempt case against former White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is still in its early stages.

Bannon’s trial also carries special relevance for the House panel as it continues to negotiate to bring in additional witnesses, and as it prepares for a major primetime hearing Thursday night intended to spotlight what committee members have called former President Donald Trump’s “dereliction of duty” on January 6.

How the trial could unfold: Prosecutors pledge that their case against Bannon will be presented succinctly, over just a few days, with only two or three prosecution witnesses. That list includes House committee investigators.

It’s unknown how extensive Bannon’s defense will be, or if he will want to take the stand in his own defense. He will not be able to force House members to testify, the judge has said.

Bannon’s attempts to stop the trial: Bannon — who accepted an 11th-hour pardon from Trump in 2021 as he was facing conspiracy wire fraud and money laundering charges in Manhattan’s federal court related to a border wall fundraising scheme — has made a series of attempts in court in recent days to stop the trial, to fashion more of a defense, or to prepare for possible appeals.

So far, US District Judge Carl Nichols has overwhelmingly sided with the Justice Department on what evidence the jury can hear, cutting off Bannon’s ability to try to defer to advice his attorney gave him or to use internal DOJ policies on presidential advisers that he hoped might protect him.

In recent weeks, Trump indicated he wanted to waive any executive privilege that might have applied to Bannon, and Bannon suggested he may be interested in speaking with the House committee — a series of events that Bannon’s team now wants to try to show to the jury. But his ability to bring up arguments about executive privilege will be, at best, severely limited. Bannon was not a government official during the period the committee is probing.

The charges: A federal grand jury indicted the right-wing figure in November on two counts of criminal contempt — one for his failure to provide testimony demanded by the House select committee’s subpoena in the fall and the other for his failure to produce documents. A key issue at trial will be whether the jury agrees with prosecutors and the House that Bannon’s October subpoena deadlines were final, and that he deliberately disregarded them.

Both charges he faces are misdemeanors. But if he is found guilty, each carries a mandatory minimum of 30 days in jail.

Keep reading about the case here.