Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Going Medieval In The P.M. Looks Like: "STOP HELPING ME!"

I guess it goes to credibility of Amerling. V. Bannon? Are you kidding me? Really? Really really? This line of questioning might make sense in a LeCarre novel, but IRL? In a courtroom? Oh, I get it: pounding on the table.

Steve Bannon attorney, Evan Corcoran, asked a series of questions that appeared to be designed to suggest bias on House staffer Kristin Amerling's part.

Judge Carl Nichols has declared out of bounds lines of inquiry about the political motivations in general committee actions but has said that, in some circumstances, specific questions about a particular witness's bias could be allowable.

Corcoran asked Amerling the political party of the lawmakers she has worked for over her years on the Hill. "I've worked for several different committees," she testified, adding that sometimes the chair was a Democrat and other times the chair was Republican. Corcoran also had questions about her political donations.

The line of questioning came after Corcoran tried to nail Amerling down on when she started working on her contribution to the House contempt report for Bannon. The Bannon team has signaled that one of the arguments it wants to make at trial is that the committee was biased against Bannon and was dead set on making an example of him, regardless of his privilege arguments. Amerling testified that she didn't remember exactly when she began work on the report, but that it was sometime after Oct. 14, the deadline for his testimony.

Doesn't exactly go to the fact Bannon blew off a lawful subpoena.  This is pretty much the "sovereign citizen" defense some MAGAheads have raised over their arrests for Jan 6.

And Bannon really wants to plead that present performance eliminates past transgressions (even though he hasn't agreed yet to deliver documents or comply with the old subpoena, and the committee is considering a new one):

US District Judge Carl Nichols and the parties spent several minutes in a private sidebar after prosecutor Amanda Vaughn objected to a question from Steve Bannon's team about a recent offer for Bannon to cooperate.

Nichols then called a 10 minute recess. He said that when he comes back, he will give weigh in on that line of question.

The jury has been escorted out of the courtroom and won't come back in until after Nichols addresses the issue for the record.

I know the judge doesn't want to quite so nakedly leave them with no defense, but this isn't one at all.  Completely irrelevant to what Bannon did that wound him up in trial today.  He's actually just issued demands for his testimony, he hasn't agreed to cooperate with the Committee at all.  As the DOJ said in opening, this was not an invitation.

I'm just gonna post this but leave it "open" to updates as the day proceeds. 

And we're back:

First, "objection" does not mean "Judge, you're screwin' me blind here!" It's a way of preserving error so if this goes up on appeal (Bannon will appeal it; count on it), DOJ can raise the admission of this letter in defense of their all-but-certain victory. Otherwise, yeah, this is all squid ink. Will be interesting to see what DOJ does (if anything) on redirect. There's also the fact the jury instructions will likely tell the jury what Bannon offered recently has no bearing on what he did a year ago.

And, from Chris Cilizza, a fine example of the truism:  "Trials are dull":

In an effort to try to skewer witness Kristin Amerling on potential personal bias, defense attorney Evan Corcoran asked several questions about the mainstay of female acquaintance circles across America: Her book club.

Both Amerling and Molly Gaston, one of two prosecutors on the Steve Bannon case, are in the same book club, Amerling testified. Amerling has been a part of it for five years, but hasn’t attended a meeting for about a year. The club communicates over email, meets monthly and reads fiction. The list of books: undisclosed.

According to a Washington Post reporter observing from the courtroom, some jurors perked up as the defense pointed out the personal connections.

The personal detour of Corcoran’s questioning tried to pry into Amerling’s connections with the prosecutor, and also revealed they had both worked together almost two decades ago on a Democratic-led House committee. Most of the book club is former staff of retired Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, Amerling said.

Corcoran pressed on. In response to another question of his, Amerling said the book club’s discussion typically would start with a book, then it was “not unusual we would talk about politics in some way or another.”

That concluded the book club questions. Corcoran then turned back to ask Amerling about Bannon communications with the committee.

Well, of course they did.  Gossip!  Something the jury can understand!  What it has to do with Bannon's contempt of Congress is anybody's guess, and I'm guessing the jury didn't take that bait.  They just wanted to hear more gossip; liven up the day.

It's my day to ask and then receive.  We're already on redirect: 

That's gonna leave a mark.  Bannon's "good faith," IOW, isn't all that good.  Cilizza backs up my impressions:

US District Carl Nichols announced after the recess that he was allowing questions about the letters that have been sent to the committee indicating that Steve Bannon was now able to cooperate, to the extent those letters speak to whether the subpoena deadlines were fixed or whether Bannon thought they might be flexible.

“The bar for relevance is very low and this letter in particular could be relevant to that question,” Nichols said before the jury returned, adding the "the leash will be very tight."
Upon the request from the DOJ, Nichols gave instructions to the jury about how the letters should be considered. He said the letters were being admitted for a “limited purpose” — whether the dates Bannon had to comply were fixed and whether he deliberately and intentionally failed to comply.

Bannon’s beliefs that executive privilege excused him from testifying “are irrelevant in this case,” Nichols said. Any future compliance by Bannon with the subpoena was also not relevant, Nichols told the jury.

That sound you hear is nails being driven into a coffin.   

Still updating, first with a little meat on the bones from CNN:

After going through some of the language of the July 14 committee response to Steve Bannon’s bid to testify, prosecutor Amanda Vaughn zeroed in on the timing of the offer.

Upon questioning from Vaughn, House staffer Kristin Amerling testified about the time lost between the original October subpoena deadline and the July offer to cooperate. Vaughn then went back to the Jan. 6 committee’s October communications about the subpoenas and Bannon’s lack of compliance, revisiting language where the committee reaffirmed the October deadlines and said Bannon risked being found in contempt by not complying with the subpoena. Vaughn walked Amerling through the process the House went through in finding Bannon in contempt and Amerling testified that at no point did Bannon offer to cooperate then.

Vaughn also asked Amerling about the lawsuit former President Donald Trump brought challenging the release of his White House documents to the investigation. The lawsuit had been referenced in an October letter from Bannon's attorney as a reason for him not complying.

After it was established that the Supreme Court ruling in the committee’s favor in that case in January, Amerling testified that he did not offer to cooperate then. Nor did he cooperate after he was indicted in November.

Did Bannon offer to cooperate in February? March? April? May? Amerling testified no.

The offer to testify "came into email a little bit after midnight on July 10,” Amerling said, later adding that it was a “matter of days” before trial.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, remember this is irrelevant.  Also:  draw your own conclusions.  

The fillet of soul, she is about ready. 

The fact is, he didn't comply. EOD.



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