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.
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.