Steve Bannon and His Competent Lawyers Part Ways

It has been hard to understand Steve Bannon’s desperate efforts to sell a Hunter Biden conspiracy in recent weeks outside the context of a pardon audition. He is already charged with fraud for diverting funds donated to build a wall to his own pocketbook. And there’s a lot about the Hunter Biden story that reeks of fraud, if not serving as an Agent of a Foreign Power.

Then, last night, he said that Anthony Fauci and Chris Wray should be beheaded and have their heads put on pikes outside the White House as a warning. He got banned permanently from Twitter as a result.

If you consider the fact that the investigation — led by the FBI — into Bannon’s charged fraud is ongoing, that comes off as a threat to someone involved in his case (though is probably not why he made the comment). Roger Stone did far less and got a gag placed on him while he was out on bail.

Today, William Burck, the very competent lawyer who shepherded Bannon through a whole lot of evolving testimony in the Mueller investigation sent a letter saying they’re going to withdraw from the case.

On behalf of Defendant Stephen Bannon, we write respectfully to request an adjournment of the status conference currently scheduled for Monday, November 9 at 1:00 p.m. Mr. Bannon is in the process of retaining new counsel, and Quinn Emanuel intends to move to withdraw. As a result, Mr. Bannon respectfully requests that the status conference in this matter be adjourned for three weeks so that he may formally retain new counsel.

We have conferred with counsel for the government and for Defendants Brian Kolfage, Andrew Badolato, and Timothy Shea, all of whom consent to an adjournment. This is the second request Mr. Bannon has made for an adjournment of this status conference.

This could be nothing more than Quinn Emanuel’s unwillingness to represent someone who engages in such action. Or, there may be a larger underlying strategic dispute, one that might extend to how Bannon might audition for a pardon.

But when Mike Flynn took a similar step over a year ago, it didn’t work out the way he hoped.

65 replies
  1. subtropolis says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if, despite the language used in the letter, it was Quinn Emanuel which took this decision. Regardless, I hope Bannon goes with Sydney Powell. The entertainment possibilities!

  2. Peterr says:

    Strikes me as Quinn Emanuel is seeking to leave the case because their client will not take their advice.

    As for new counsel, Rudy Giuliani might be available, or BDTS. Nothing like having America’s Mayor and a former ActingAG on your side, right?

  3. Norskeflamthrower says:

    I wonder if Trumpty will actually pardon any of his folks if he pops his last brain cell and pulls a Hitler taking ’em all with him. And there is the possibility that he could try and use the threat of pardons for everyone as a chip in bargaining for a get outta jail free card. I really don’t think he can get away with pardoning himself so he needs Pence to play Gerald Ford and that still doesn’t get him outta harms way in New York.

    • BobCon says:

      I’m very curious if Kushner tries to take control of the process and does his usual incompetent job of vetting mixed with settling petty scores.

      • Peterr says:

        Trump: “Can I issue an UnPardon? You know, double someone’s sentence instead of getting rid of it?”

        Jared: “Sure! Why not?”

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          There’s a reason Kushner’s dad had to contribute a few million bucks to get Jared into Harvard (and probably any other good school) twenty years ago.

    • BraveNewWorld says:

      Expect Trump to go scorched earth. I expect more crazy in the next two months than the last 4 years.

      • Hika says:

        The Republican Party has a real conundrum of what to do with a soon-to-be out-of-office Trump. They need to move on and look to see what they can cook up for 2022 and 2024, but Trump will be messing with any plans they make and it very well may split the party. After playing footsie with the far right for too long, they will be split by any strong move by their ‘centrist’ elements to reassert control. (UK conservatives have a problem that is broadly similar in outline.)
        So, if Trump gets even more unhinged in the next few weeks and it all gets too funky for elected Republicans trying to salvage careers beyond the here and now, will Pence give Trump the Amendment XXV Section 4 ticket to crazytown to prevent damage that can’t be undone?

        • timbo says:

          If only so many of them weren’t facing jail time if Trump is out then possibly they’d be able to let go sooner…

      • BayStateLibrul says:


        The election must end.
        Can you do a cartoon — emanating white smoke flowing out of Biden’s chimney/residence (how the Catholic Church declares a winner?)
        Black smoke at the White House

  4. scribe says:

    Any client of mine who’d come out with a public statement even 1/10 the nature of what Bannon’s said, would no longer be my client by the next morning. One of the ethics rules governing lawyers says a lawyer is not required to continue a representation which is repugnant to the lawyer. End of story.

    • bmaz says:

      Exactly. I have no qualms whatsoever with what a defendant is charged with. But they have to shut up and not be stupid. They get fired for that.

      • scribe says:

        It’s hard enough to defend a client without the client adding to the mess, with his mouth, his actions, or both.

        Once second-chaired a 13 year-old cold-case murder trial with a colleague. The investigation was f’d up 9 ways to Sunday (Barney Fife’s cousin was the investigating detective). The allegations were a late-night stabbing in a badass bar (part owned by a cop) with no blood ever found (they didn’t look), dubious eyewitness identifications (lots of drinking going on), the exsanguinated body of the decedent popped up in the middle of a city street a mile or so away in a snowstorm wearing a sweater (a little blood on it) and white pants (no blood on the pants).

        How the fuck do you lose most of the blood in your body and get none of it on your white fucking pants? And none on the snowy street?

        The obvious play was to put the defendant on the stand. He was prepared to testify that he had no memory of ever being in that bar (subtext “and if I was, I was too drunk to remember”) and certainly didn’t do the deed (subtext “too drunk”), let alone cart a carcass out of there for a mile plus (subtext “way too drunk”).

        So, in the middle of a jury trial the evening before he’s supposed to testify this shit for brains knucklehead goes out and decides to play detective and help his case by contacting witnesses. He gets busted for … kidnapping and witness intimidation. We first find out about it when he doesn’t show up for court in the morning. Prosecution tells us that if he testifies all this stuff will come up in his cross, and the new charges will proceed if he’s acquitted.

        Hardball, yes. And we’re stuck representing this shithead.

        He doesn’t testify, appears in court in civvies.

        Case goes in and the judge remarks to my colleague, off the record, that if it had been a non-jury trial the judge thought we’d raised enough doubt to get an acquittal.

        But the jury saw things otherwise.

        • bmaz says:

          Ouch. But nobody would try that to a judge, even if it turns out it might would have worked. The dumb client thing though, that is not on the attorneys.

        • scribe says:

          This was 15 or so years ago. I suppose he’s out by now. As the judge told him at sentencing “you’re lucky. This crime happened before the mandatory 85% rule kicked in.”

          My colleague, well, his most recent ad mentions he’s done death penalty defense. It’s true. But back before Furman v. Georgia every murder case was a capital case. He’s been trying criminal cases since like 1964. At the time of this trial about 15 years ago, I thought he should have moved on from the trial part of the practice. I don’t think I worked with him since, and definitely not since I moved away over 10 years ago. Last I heard he’s still trying cases.

  5. I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

    I’m wondering whether Bannon’s “heads on a pike” tweet came before or after he and Burck first discussed the subject of Burck and his firm withdrawing from representing Bannon. It’s not clear that there was sufficient time for the conversation to have first occurred after the tweet. But I can’t imagine that the relationship would have continued after the tweet under any circumstances.

    And I’m wondering who, beyond the usual suspects (Rudy, Jay, Sydney, Toensing, DiGenova, etc), would ever take him on as a client now.

  6. Peterr says:

    But when Mike Flynn took a similar step over a year ago, it didn’t work out the way he hoped.

    Obama: Hope and Change.

    Flynn, Bannon et al.: Change and Hope.

    • Wajim says:

      Clever, what you did there. But time is quickly running out. Do you think Donnie Long Tie is in the mood for pardons at this point? Speaking of which, do you think his forthcoming self-pardon will specifically refer to him or will it cover “any appointed, employed, or elected person of this administration.”

      • Peterr says:

        I think he’s been in the mood for pardons since day one.

        Pardons are something that only the president can grant. That appeals to his ego.

        Pardons are non-reviewable. That appeals to his sense of being above any accountability.

        Pardons make people very grateful. Trump loves having people “owe” him something.

        As for pardoning himself, though, that strikes me as a tough thing. For Trump to sign a pardon that covers himself, it would require that he admit to the possibility that he himself personally did something that might possibly be wrong. This is not something Trump would like to admit.

        On the other hand, he might do it if he thought that this is simply a CYA action to avoid the future Biden administration from launching a witch hunt.

        What I would be interested in is whether Trump would try to pardon himself for actions prior to becoming president, like the suit being pursued by Jean Carroll.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It would be a neat trick if Trump managed to extend the president’s pardon power to include state crimes. But I think that’s a non-starter.

          He’ll remain vulnerable to things like state defamation claims. The magic to those is whether any plaintiffs have the wherewithal to avoid settling and engage in extensive discovery. Trump usually folds his tent when that gets close, because he has so many dirty secrets to hide.

        • timbo says:

          Twitler and his lawyers are well aware though that once you pardon a thug, the thug only owes you something in theory, not in fact. Thus, the pardon is worth more in its possibility to Trump, not in its actual execution.

  7. harpie says:

    I think the last time we heard about threats of heads on pikes was Impeachment, and it was Trump threatening Senators against voting to convict Trump with regard to his extortion of Ukraine to obtain their public announcement of Biden conspiracy theories.


    Just thought that was interesting.

  8. Jenny says:

    In Bannon’s own words:

    “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”

    “Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

    “I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.”

    “I’ve got a cure for mental health issue. Spank your children more.”

  9. MattyG says:

    Bit OT but does the prospect of the lame duck costume DT will be wearing for the next few months jeopardize the prospects of pardons some of his henchmen have angled for all this while? If DT is headed for criminal charges after vacating the WH would issuing pardons to potential co-defendents/accessories/wittnesses etc., hurt his own prospects in court? DT will make the calculation based on what’s best for him at this point, “reputation” and “narrative” be damned.

    In other words were his henchmen hanging on relection to ensure pardons?

    • timbo says:

      It’s more likely they’ll get them now IMO. However, it’s also a double-edged sword in that any pardons now would be for services perviously rendered, not for favors in the future. That’s something that may hold Derr Twitler back from pardoning some of the outliers.

  10. BD Mac says:

    Whoa! Just watched the Democracy Now! clip of this. Didn’t realize he went full on Gavin McInnes on the violent comments (raised both arms and pointed to the air pikes while staring directly into the camera with an attempt at channeling the Evil Eye of Sauron). The latter failed; I was not afraid. He’s too heavy to be Voldemort, but that might have worked on me otherwise.

    People are pitching who’s his next lawyer. I’d say he’s cracked; full stop!

    (1) Stress from the indictment while out on bail (Comey mentioned it was a solid case),

    (2) Trump losing,

    (3) Forgetting to shave this month and change his underwear.

    I wouldn’t speculate about his legal counsel; I’d ask who and where’s the closest mental health professional to have him committed as a danger to himself and/or the public? 5150 anyone? He’ll only need a lawyer after the 72 hour evaluation hold.

    Wow! Stress is a mind killer. Losing your pardoner must hurt worse than I imagined. The effects are stifling.

    “If there’s a Bannon in your hedgerow; don’t be alarmed now; It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen”…

    Trial starts 05/21. Should be interesting.

    • emptywheel says:

      I keep going back to his play for a pardon. Before the election, when Bannon was in mid-Hunter craze, Trump said he’d be alright, meaning this legal case. But maybe the pardon dangle was premised on delivering a victory? What if a lot of these pardons (for Parscale, too) are tied to a win?

      • timbo says:

        Interesting theory. However, you either deliver or you don’t when it comes to promising pardons. If Trump wants support again from the same people… but 4 years from now, he’ll pardon people if he’s leaving now.

    • person1597 says:

      “Imagine having the means to be independent and build the foundation you determine is best for you and your family’s future. You have the ability to focus. You tend to be pragmatic and to do things for your own satisfaction. You are conscientious and hold yourself responsible for your own actions. Your goals are accomplished by the means you determine are best.”

  11. Savage Librarian says:

    And Bannon had a connection to George Nader, too. I think another source of worry for all these grifters is the China-Israel connection. It wouldn’t surprise me if that is also how Sergei Millian knows Phil. ( “The Evolving Israel-China Relationship” )

    “Accused Sex Trafficker George Nader Helped Steve Bannon Land $100K Payday” – 8/11/19

    “Many of Nader’s communications with Broidy have also become public since the hack. And numerous reports have revealed Nader’s work as a gatekeeper between Gulf dignitaries and denizens of Trumpworld. The emails The Daily Beast obtained indicate that, on at least one occasion, he also helped connect a Republican financier to Bannon.”

  12. Alan Charbonneau says:

    “It has been hard to understand Steve Bannon’s desperate efforts to sell a Hunter Biden conspiracy in recent weeks outside the context of a pardon audition.”

    Makes sense, because it was the worst October Surprise I’ve ever seen.

  13. Dopey-o says:

    Could it be the case that cronies who are pardoned by Trump could be called to testify in any future trials / congressional hearings? And having been pardoned, would no longer have 5th Amendment protection.

    And therefore be forced to spill the beans on Trump’s crimes? Law of Unintended Consequences, etc?

    IIRC, Scooter Libby was not pardoned, but only had his sentence commuted to ensure his future silence about potential Bush 43 crimes.

    • Eureka says:

      I love it, thank you!

      Gritty: “Later Bitch[ez]”

      The big mystery is why it’s only got one PPA ticket, and hasn’t been booted or towed yet [uh, I would even see if that dumb reality show is still filming eps to watch that thing hauled away, and the owner deal with PPA. After he and his compatriot bond out on weapons charges, that is (750k bail for each, IIRC)].

      The place was rockin’ beforehand, but Trump really riled everyone with that “debate” line, “Bad things happen in Philadelphia”. Oh, do they now?

      This attitude, btw, is exactly why you want progressive candidates/officeholders who clearly stand for something (speaking to that wall of trolling over on the Congrats page, most of which remains unread). All of our pertinent officeholders — from localities to state — said, loud and clear, don’t fuck with us. Spirit of 76.

      Learned from Beschloss that the Kennedys had a plot afoot to … buy the Iggles?!? Hope the Qanoners don’t find _that_ out.

      Adding: the replies are amusing, e.g.: “Easier just to appoint a Steeler running back to the Supreme Court.”

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Hey, Eureka, I just wanted to thank you for your thoughts about TMT, etc. on a previous post. I have some additional thoughts to share but first I have to re-energize. So, I’ll probably catch up with you again on a future post.

  14. gnokgnoh says:

    Bad things happen in Philadelphia has become the new local fight song, Thanksgiving prayer, and Christmas carol…here in Philly.

  15. Chris.EL says:

    a little off topic … relates though to Bannon’s wall grift crime …

    What will happen with THE #&@÷%# WALL ??!!??

    Funny how Bannon proudly proclaims himself a Leninist; is anything more representative of government than a giant wall barring entry to another country erected by its government?

    Nice article about the effects of the wall on the beautiful Arizona countryside, from NY Times:
    “A Year of Devastation in Arizona’s Wild Lands
    Living and working along the U.S.-Mexico border has meant watching the surreal, slow-motion leveling of the fragile ecosystems I’ve spent my career fighting to protect.
    By Laiken Jordahl
    Mr. Jordahl works to protect the U.S.-Mexican borderland environment with the Center for Biological Diversity. Published Nov. 1, 2020”

    Does Biden/Harris have plans for the wall?

  16. Franktoo says:

    Marcy wrote: “Or, there may be a larger underlying strategic dispute, one that might extend to how Bannon might audition for a pardon.”

    Is there any chance the Biden camp to hint to Trump that their attitude about prosecuting ex-president Trump could depend on his misuse of the pardon power during the rest of his term?

  17. Blueride27 says:

    Trump’s personality and the fact that he’s in tantrum mode will preclude him from pardoning anyone unless they represent a direct threat. I’m willing to bet the only person who receives a pardon is Kushner and possibly Ivanka.

      • Blueride27 says:

        Pence is a tough one. Do I think he he’s complicit? Yes! Unfortunately I think his brand of plain was specifically designed to sit behind a firewall. I.e. you won’t see his name on anything incriminating due to.. 2 birds one stone leads to Nancy in charge.

        – ❤️-

Comments are closed.