Three Questions Not Asked of Steve Bannon

The Roger Stone trial is done for the week, with Randy Credico getting through his testimony (though probably without substantiating the witness tampering charge tied to him), with Margaret Kunstler confirming that Credico had never provided information from Assange to Stone through her, and with a very short appearance from Steve Bannon.

Bannon’s appearance was most interesting, in my opinion, for what he wasn’t asked. Here’s CNN’s coverage.

Prosecutor Michael Marando asked Bannon what he made of Stone’s August 18 email — introduced in Aaron Zelinsky’s opening — telling Bannon, ““I do know how to win this but it ain’t pretty.” Bannon responded by calling Stone some lame euphemism for “rat-fucker,” and observed that Stone is highly experienced in such things. But Bannon was not asked whether there was any follow-up to the email. That’s particularly interesting given the possibility that it pertains to another investigation, albeit one not related to the core Russian issues.

As expected, Marando asked Bannon about his emails to Roger Stone on October 4, 2016.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone

What was that this morning???

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Roger Stone
TO: Steve Bannon
Fear. Serious security concern. He thinks they are going to kill him and the London police are standing done.

However —a load every week going forward.

Roger stone

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
FROM: Steve Bannon
TO: Roger Stone

He didn’t cut deal w/ clintons???

Marando used Bannon’s request to Stone as a way to premise that Bannon believed that Stone was the campaign point person on any outreach to WikiLeaks.

But Bannon wasn’t asked about the last email in that thread, which asked Bannon to tell Rebecca Mercer to send him some money. That’s significant, because the government wants to show that Stone lied to HPSCI about discussing his dark money shenanigans with the campaign (but that he cleaned that lie up). Since that exchange amounts to Stone telling Trump’s campaign manager what he was up to, I had thought Bannon might be asked to elaborate on that. He was not.

Finally, Bannon was not asked about his response to an email Paul Manafort sent to Jared Kushner and David Bossie on November 5, 2016 about how to “secure the victory.”

Later, in a November 5, 2016 email to Kushner entitled “Securing the Victory,” Manafort stated that he was “really feeling good about our prospects on Tuesday and focusing on preserving the victory,” and that he was concerned the Clinton Campaign would respond to a loss by “mov[ing] immediately to discredit the [Trump] victory and claim voter fraud and cyber-fraud, including the claim that the Russians have hacked into the voting machines and tampered with the results.”

Bannon responded to that email by saying, (PDF 258)

We need to avoid this guy like the plague

They are going to try and say the Russian worked with wiki leaks to give this victory to us

Paul is nice guy but can’t let word out he is advising us

Of course, this is the Roger Stone trial, not any of Paul Manafort’s multiple trials. So it’s unsurprising that this didn’t come up. But, particularly given the way it reflected a tie between Russia, WikiLeaks, and Manafort, it might have.

Especially given that, when Bannon was asked about this on a February 14, 2018, he appears to have invoked Stone in his not entirely truthful answer.

Candidate Trump never said to Bannon that he was in contact with [5 letter name redacted for ongoing proceeding] or Manafort. Bannon knew they were going to win, and in this email he wanted to avoid Manafort because Bannon believed that if people could link them to Manafort, they could then try to link them to Russia.

That redacted name could not be Gates, the other 5-letter name associated with Manafort, because he remained on the campaign after Manafort left. And the FOIA exemption is most consistent with a Stone redaction.

In other words, a month after Bannon had the exchange about WikiLeaks with Roger Stone that did show up in the trial, he tied Stone, Manafort, WikiLeaks, and Russia together in his mind.

None of this (besides, I guess, the lack of follow-up on the August 18 email) is particularly surprising. But it is notable that Bannon wasn’t asked about a range of tangential issues, even issues that will be aired in different ways at the trial.

22 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    But Bannon was not asked whether there was any follow-up to the email. That’s particularly interesting given the possibility that it pertains to another investigation, albeit one not related to the core Russian issues.

    Ding ding ding

    More than just sitting on that question until the other investigation is more advanced, it leaves Bannon hanging. It is such an obvious followup that Bannon had to have been expecting it to be asked. When it wasn’t, he had to be wondering why — or even “What else do they know, and what kind of trouble will I be in when they get around to asking it later?” Because he knows they will ask it later.

    The phrase “Twisting slowly, slowly in the wind” comes to mind, though it Watergate it was uttered by Ehrlichman about the nomination of Patrick Gray to head up the FBI. Still, that’s exactly what Bannon’s going to do over the next several . . . days? weeks?

    See, that’s the thing about being left to twist in the wind — you never know how long you’ll be there.

    • Avattoir says:

      Maybe, but IMHO it’s more that these 3 and other possible questions went unasked due to the 3 Rules of Direct Examination of Potential Hostile Witnesses:
      1. As much as possible, keep your questions down to those that are absolutely essential to making your case.
      2. Never ask a question to which you haven’t already received a locked-down answer.
      3. Avoid questions that risk opening the door on cross-examination.

      Also out of today’s proceedings, I note from an update at WaPo that Judge ABJ took a shot at a defending attorney for being “boring”. Having worked both sides of the courtroom each for many years, I’d be wary of taking veteran competent counsel to task over leaving such an impression, particularly given it may very well be intended.

      • Peterr says:

        I think the Three Rules of Direct Examination of Potential Hostile Witnesses are spot-on, and in this case, rule #1 is particularly on point. But this case does not exist in a vacuum, and is tied to various other cases both past and potentially upcoming. When the prosecutor here does not ask the obvious followup question, that leaves the witness to wonder “why didn’t he/she ask it?”

        Yes, perhaps asking that particular followup question is not essential to making *this* case, but it is potentially highly important when it comes to the next case – and that’s where Bannon should be worried.

        Marcy is right to note that these questions “not asked” are important. This is not necessarily to say the prosecutors screwed up in their handling of this case, but rather that they point to potential lines of inquiry in other cases.

        • Frank Probst says:

          Here’s my perspective as someone who spent four weeks of jury duty on a murder trial: Never waste the jury’s time with tangents that aren’t relevant to your case. Most people take jury duty very seriously, but they try to stay focused on the narrow questions that they’re being asked to answer. (“Is this person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes that they’ve been charged with?”) If you’re giving them information that isn’t relevant to what they’ve been asked to do, then you’re wasting their time. Stay on point. In terms of your questions, this trial is the only one that matters. You can ask the witnesses about tangents in some other setting.

      • emptywheel says:

        And he was very hostile. They had the GJ transcript right there and made him adhere to it. And I think that appearance (in January 2019, so days before Stone was indicted), was the end result of slowly nudging and nudging him closer to the truth. His first interview he clearly lied in.

  2. Molly Pitcher says:

    “We need to avoid this guy like the plague

    They are going to try and say “the Russian” worked with wiki leaks to give this victory to us

    Paul is nice guy but can’t let word out he is advising us”

    The thing that jumped out at me just now is that the quote of the email says ‘the Russian’, singular. Is there a particular Russian Bannon was referring to ? Wouldn’t he have said ‘the Russians’, plural ?

    • Savage Librarian says:

      That thought occurred to me as well. Maybe he meant Kilimnik. Maybe that is the 8 letter name that fits in the 7 letter space for the redacted head fake Paul did.

      Or, maybe it is a typo or shortened reference like he made in the sentence that follows it:

      “Paul is nice guy but can’t let word out he is advising us”

      As you see, he left the article “a” out of the sentence, between “is” and “nice.”

      So, hopefully, time will tell. I’m looking forward to hearing about other investigations that we don’t know about yet. But who knows when that will happen…

    • Eureka says:

      I was more interested in the contrast between Manafort’s sample universe of their a’feared- to- be- accused- of crimes:

      voter fraud and cyber-fraud, including the claim that the Russians have hacked into the voting machines and tampered with the results.

      and Bannon’s chill-it-down, delimited version:

      the Russian worked with wiki leaks to give this victory to us

      Someone (fine, probably everyone by now) knows that Jared is excitable and prone to reactive dependence relationships — it’s part of his natsec-risk charm. Among other inferences that may be made here…

      • BG Pelaire says:

        So DID the Russians hack into the voting machines and tamper with the results? And if so, how do we know? And why didn’t Hillary and Democrats take a couple of days to get their act together and either sue or ask for recounts and an investigation?

        I just have a feeling this is where all of this leads, and why Trump assumed he was “f**ked” when they announced the Mueller appointment. Because, looking it at from the assumption that Trump knew voting machines had been hacked just before and after the polls closed, he thought he, the Russians, Parscale, whoever, would be found out. Thus his emphasis on “redoing the election,” etc.

        • Smeelbo says:

          One of America’s dirty secrets is that ballot counts have been hackable for decades. I have witnessed this with my own eyes. Consider the election of Santa Cruz County, June 3rd, 1984. The results are not easy to find, even with Google, so I am providing a link below to the Santa Cruz Public Library:

          (this is my first post with a link, so I apologize in advance for not following protocol).

          In particular, consider Measure A, “An Ordinance Prohibiting the Manufacture or Testing of Nuclear Weapons in the County of Santa Cruz.”

          This Measure was immensely popular, and for the months prior to the election polled at 2-1 in favor of. Polling also revealed that the only arguments that were effective in reducing support for A were either to confuse the meaning of Yes and No (e.g. claiming that a NO vote was a vote AGAINST Nuclear Weapons), or to claim that the Measure was about something else entirely (specifically, borrowing the text from Measure A in San Mateo County).

          Yet, come Election Day, the Measure FAILED by almost 2-1: “Votes yes: 26166
          Votes no: 45118.”

          Was this an accurate vote count? Did Conservative turnout swamp Liberals in Santa Cruz in June 1984? In a word, No. For the first time, Liberals took the majorities on both the City Council AND the County Board of Supervisors. Voter Turnout was over 50%. So Santa Cruz Liberals and Progressives, highly motivated to Vote, elected every Liberal or Progressive candidate offered, but changed their minds at the last minute once in the polling booth?


          But why, you may ask, weren’t the election results challenged? Well, because the Progressives DID win majorities, and were satisfied with the results. To claim that the vote count was altered would be to undermine the legitimacy of their own election. Hence, no challenge.

          And that, I think, is America’s dirty secret. That vote counts are not only far more vulnerable to manipulation, but also are in fact altered far more frequently than any government officials dare admit. To do so is to undermine the foundations of government by the people.

    • Americana says:

      Interesting point that may never be answered or, if it’s answered, the answer won’t come for a long time. If it was a single Russian who inveigled WikiLeaks to give the DNC emails the play they received, would it be a lower-ranked guy or the Russian at the top of the heap? Putin wouldn’t be the guy making those phone calls or contacts.

      So though I think it was meant as a reference to Putin — a tip of the hat — I’m sure it was meant merely as an indication he was the Russian who facilitated all these Russian activities on Trump’s behalf, not that Putin was himself making personal calls. Does it make any difference in the end when it’s clear it was Putin’s choice to push Trump’s election via the Internet Research Agency et al?

  3. Savage Librarian says:

    OT, but timely. Sung to the same tune as: “THE GILLIGAN SONG” from The Little Dictator…Gilligan’s Island

    Inanity or Vanity ?

    Who is the man who’ll pretend and defend?
    Hannity, that’s me!
    Who is your fiend when you find that you need a fiend?
    Hannity, that’s me!
    For I’m just as proud of my name, you see
    As an Emperor, Czar or a King could be
    Who is the man helps a con ev’ry time he can?
    Hannity, that’s me!

    H–A–double N–I – T & Y spells Hannity
    Proud of all the reddish blood that’s in me
    Devil and man can swear against me
    H–A–double N–I- T & Y you see
    Is a name that a shame Trump is now connected with
    Hannity, that’s me!

    Who is the man never stood-up a gadabout?
    Hannity, that’s me!
    Who is the man that the Don’s so damn mad about?
    Hannity, that’s me!
    The broads and babes are fond of me
    I’m fond of them, too, in return, you see
    Who is the gent that deserves to be documented ?
    Hannity, that’s me!

    (Apologies and appeciation to George M. Cohan and his song, “Harrigan” from the 1908 Broadway show, 50 Miles from Boston. Sung by James Cagney in 1942 and by Mickey Rooney in 1957, it was later used in 1960 for an ABC TV series, “Harrigan and Son.”

    In 1956, Averell Harriman’s campaign used a modified version in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was also modified for a popular television comedy “Gilligan’s Island” in the 1965 episode “The Little Dictator”, when Gilligan dreams that he is the president of a banana republic.)

  4. Quake says:

    Typo in last two lines of main post:
    “…even issues that will be aired in different wants at the trial.”

    wants > ways

  5. harpie says:

    This is o/t, but something about which Marcy retweeted this morning, and which has been covered extensively here for many years:
    Yesterday, Carol Rosenberg published in NYT:
    Judge Rules Prosecutors Misrepresented Evidence From C.I.A. Sites
    A military judge for Guantánamo’s war court found that the handling of classified information from secret prisons was deeply flawed, complicating the Cole case.
    [I’ll add this link in another comment]
    CAROL ROSENBERG Nov. 8, 2019

    I can’t find what time that was published…usually available on the Times twitter feed…still looking. But I had seen the name Nashiri on Steve Vladeck‘s twitter feed earlier:
    4:40 AM – 8 Nov 2019

    Another big #GTMO military commission ruling. Here, it’s the new trial judge in al-Nashiri (the alleged USS Cole bomber) rejecting gov’t motions to not turn over potentially material classified info. to the defense (and blaming the government for delay): [link to ruling]

    Carol Rosenberg, the preeminent reporter on Guantanamo since it opened, responds to Vladeck about 35 minutes later:
    5:16 AM – 8 Nov 2019

    Replying to @steve_vladeck @howappealing and 7 others /
    Thanks. Reading it now. (Pentagon still has it under seal.) Struck by this…[screenshot]

    To which Marty Lederman, also a long time observer of Guantanamo, responds:
    [I’ll add this link in another comment]
    5:22 AM – 8 Nov 2019

    Replying to @carolrosenberg @steve_vladeck and 7 others
    “(Pentagon still has it under seal.)” is Exhibit A for what the judge is talking about. Enough already.

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