July 20 Steve Bannon trial news

By Tierney Sneed, Katelyn Polantz, Mike Hayes, JiMin Lee, Aditi Sangal and Maureen Chowdhury, CNN

Updated 9:29 a.m. ET, July 22, 2022
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5:13 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

The government rests its case against Steve Bannon

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

The Justice Department has rested its case against former President Donald Trump aide Steve Bannon, after calling two witnesses, Kristin Amerling from the House Select Committee and FBI Agent Stephen Hart.

The proceedings will resume on Thursday at 10:30 a.m. ET.

5:11 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Defense digs into Costello meeting with US attorney that was subject of heated pretrial dispute

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

Steve Bannon's attorney Evan Corcoran now has the opportunity to ask questions about a meeting Robert Costello, also an attorney for Bannon, had with the US attorney last year before he was indicted. This is after the prosecution was able to ask questions about the same meeting.

When the case was in its previous stage, the meeting and other investigative acts the Justice Department took aimed at Costello was the subject of heated accusations and objections from Bannon's defense.

Bannon argued it was inappropriate for the DOJ to use the meeting, where Bannon's attorney was trying to convince DOJ not to bring charges, to collect evidence for the case. Hart was among the FBI agents monitoring the WebEx meeting.

Corcoran asked Hart a series of questions about the circumstance of the meeting. He pointed Hart to the concept of a proffer meeting, and how defense attorneys use them to try to persuade prosecutors not to bring charges.

In his questioning, Corcoran notes that defense attorneys don't always give all the information they have.

5:07 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

DOJ uses Bannon’s own social media to nail down case

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

(Sketch by Bill Hennessy)
(Sketch by Bill Hennessy)

Steve Bannon was posting on social media after he defied a a congressional subpoena —and saying he “would NOT” comply.

The jury saw two of Bannon’s post on the social media site Gettr on Wednesday afternoon, at the top of testimony from special agent Stephen Hart, who investigated Bannon for this case.

DOJ used Hart on the stand Wednesday to bring into evidence Bannon’s own statements about the House select committee, and about some of what Bannon’s attorney told the FBI in interviews. The prosecutors promised in their opening statement to show Bannon was “thumbing his nose” at Congress.

The day after Bannon’s document subpoena deadline passed, Bannon’s verified Gettr account posted: “Steve Bannon tells the Jan 6 select committee that he will NOT comply with their subpoena.” The jury was shown the social post.

5:24 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Court resumes as special agent is called as a witness

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

(Sketch by Bill Hennessy)
(Sketch by Bill Hennessy)

The trial has resumed after a short break and the government has called special agent Stephen Hart as a witness.

Prosecutor Molly Gaston will be doing the direct questioning.

Hart investigates federal public corruption cases in the Washington, DC, field office.

4:08 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Prosecutors zero in on the timing of Bannon’s offer to cooperate with Jan. 6 committee

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

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.

4:10 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

The court is taking a short break after trial's first witness finishes testimony 

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

The first witness to testify at Steve Bannon's trial has finished testifying.

Kristin Amerling, deputy staff director of the House select committee, completed her time on the stand, with Bannon's team not having any more questions for her after the prosecution finished its redirect.

Judge Carl Nichols of the DC District Court has called a brief recess.

6:57 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Defense presents new letter from Jan. 6 committee chair responding to Bannon's offer to cooperate

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

US Rep. Bennie Thompson is chairman of the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack.
US Rep. Bennie Thompson is chairman of the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Given permission by US District Judge Carl Nichols to ask about Steve Bannon's recent bid at cooperation, the defense presented to the jury a July 14 letter from Bennie Thompson, who is the chair of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, responding to that offer.

Bannon's defense attorney Evan Corcoran asked witness Kristin Amerling, a deputy staff director of the House select committee, whether, in the letter, Thompson was indicating to Bannon that was he open to holding a deposition at a future date pursuant to the September subpoena.

Amerling testified that Thompson was open to receiving new information for the investigation.

Corcoran wrapped his cross-examination shortly after. Prosecutor Amanda Vaughn then had the opportunity to question Amerling again.

She had Amerling read a line from Thompson’s letter that said, “The July 9, 2022 outreach to the Select Committee by you on Mr. Bannon's behalf does not change the fact that Mr. Bannon failed to follow that process and failed to comply with the Select Committee's subpoena prior to the House referral of the contempt resolution concerning Mr. Bannon's defiance of the subpoena."

3:46 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Judge allows questions about Bannon’s recent bid to cooperate

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

(Sketch by Bill Hennessy)
(Sketch by Bill Hennessy)

US District Judge 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.

3:03 p.m. ET, July 20, 2022

Bannon team attempts to undermine witness Amerling through her book club affiliation

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Tierney Sneed

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.