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Government prosecutors rested their case against former Trump adviser Steve Bannon Wednesday, but not before a revelation: A government witness in the case against Bannon is in a book club with one of the prosecutors, according to evidence revealed in court Wednesday.
Under cross-examination from attorney Evan Corcoran, Kristin Amerling, the chief counsel for the Jan. 6 committee, confirmed that she is in a book club with Molly Gaston, one of the prosecutors in the case.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon arrives at federal court for the second day of jury selection in his contempt of Congress trial, Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The two met around 15 years ago when they were staffers under former Democratic congressman Henry Waxman and have been in the same book club around five years, Amerling said.
Amerling said she hasn’t been to any of the club meetings in about a year, but when asked if they ever talked about politics she answered: “To the best of my recollection, the conversations cover a whole variety of topics.”
“Given the careers of the folks in the book group, it’s not unusual that we would talk about politics in one way or another,” Amerling said, adding that she has donated to Democratic candidates in the past.
Federal prosecutors are building a case that Bannon willfully ignored a congressional subpoena in open defiance of the U.S. government.
Bannon, a longtime adviser and strategist for former President Trump, was brought to trial on a pair of federal charges for criminal contempt of Congress after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon leaves federal court in Washington, Monday, July 18, 2022. Jury selection began Monday in the trial of Steve Bannon, a one-time top adviser to former President Donald Trump. He is facing criminal contempt of Congress charges after refusing for months to cooperate with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. (The Associated Press)
Under questioning Tuesday from Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn, Amerling went through a detailed explanation of the committee’s role, the Bannon subpoena and why the panel felt it was important to compel his testimony. Amerling said Bannon’s public statements leading up to the riot “suggested he might have some advanced knowledge of the events of Jan. 6.”
Amerling said there were multiple indications that Bannon “might have had some discussions with individuals in the White House, including the president.” The day’s session ended with Amerling being questioned by the prosecution.
In her opening statement, Vaughn told jurors that the subpoena issued to Bannon by the committee investigating the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election and the events leading up to the Capitol insurrection “wasn’t optional. It wasn’t a request, and it wasn’t an invitation. It was mandatory.” She added: “The defendant’s failure to comply was deliberate. It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a mistake. It was a choice.”
Bannon’s lawyers argued that the charges against him are politically motivated and that Bannon was engaged in good-faith negotiations with the congressional committee when he was charged.
“No one ignored the subpoena,” defense lawyer Evan Corcoran told the jury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.