How Do You Solve a Problem Like Steve Bannon?

Axios reported that PardonPalooza would accelerate yesterday. But it didn’t happen. Not yet, at least.

I wonder if that’s because Trump got new visibility on his own lingering jeopardy from the Mueller investigation.

There’s a section of the Mueller Report that got declassified in the last batch which may explain why Jerome Corsi wasn’t charged. In advance of three people whose prosecution was declined — which definitely includes KT McFarland, along with two others (Erik Prince or Sam Clovis may be one, George Nader may be the other) — the report explains,

We also considered three other individuals interviews–redacted–but do not address them here because they are involved in aspects of ongoing investigations or active prosecutions to which their statements to this office may be relevant.

Corsi obviously lied to Mueller, but his lies served, in part, to support the head fake the Mueller Report used to address how Roger Stone optimized the Podesta files.

Another of those liars could be Paul Manafort.

But the third may be Steve Bannon, who told a rolling series of lies that over time approached the truth, at least about some issues. Bannon even tried to lie again to back off his grand jury testimony in advance of the Roger Stone trial.

Bannon would be interesting for several reasons. Bannon knew about Stone’s interactions with “WikiLeaks” even before he formally joined the campaign. Bannon was a key player in setting up the fall 2016 meeting with Egypt, which preceded what the government thinks could have been a foreign bribe that kept the campaign afloat (indeed, one thing Bannon seems to have always lied about was his work with George Papadopoulos on that).

But most of all, Bannon was the fourth witness — with the others being Mike Flynn, KT McFarland, and Jared Kushner — to Trump’s interactions with Russia during the Transition four years ago. He was, with Jared, the person who most consistently used his personal email to conduct discussions of back channels with Russia (though all four took measures to keep their actions hidden from the Obama Administration and other Transition team members).

And Bannon was, for testimony before HPSCI the transcript of which got shared with Mueller’s team shortly before they closed up shop, scripted to deny any discussion of sanctions (among other things). You could get a clear understanding of what the White House was trying to deny by the wording of the questions.

Mueller’s team would have had this script in time for Bannon’s grand jury appearance in January 2019. We know one thing that Bannon was asked about, and begrudgingly told the truth about, pertained to the campaign’s enthusiasm about WikiLeaks (something about which he had lied in the past and tried to again). But we don’t know what else he got asked; Stone’s prosecutors got just the part pertaining to the Stone prosecution unsealed.

At the time of his grand jury testimony and until quite recently, Bannon was represented by Bill Burck. At least with Don McGahn, whom Burck also represented, Burck did not share details of his testimony with Trump’s lawyers. We know that because Trump was blind-sided when he learned about the extent of McGahn’s testimony. If that’s true of Bannon as well, then it would mean that grand jury appearance has been a blind spot for Trump and his lawyers.

Until now. After Bannon threatened Chris Wray and Anthony Fauci with execution, Burck fired Bannon as a client. Bannon recently hired Robert Costello to represent him in his Build the Wall fraud case. On top of being the guy who brokered a pardon to Michael Cohen in an attempt to silence him, Costello’s also Rudy’s personal lawyer. So Costello now has privilege with both Bannon and Rudy, and Rudy has privilege (by dint of being Trump’s defense attorney) with Trump.

The old gang’s back together.

Thing is, if Bannon told the truth about sanctions in that grand jury appearance, it’ll make it a lot easier to unwind a bunch of expected pardons, because Bannon’s testimony could be used to push Flynn, McFarland, Jared, and Trump himself to tell the truth about what they tried with Russia four years ago, exposing each to a fresh perjury charge they would no longer be pardoned for. Even if Biden’s Attorney General was disinterested in that, I expect there to be more transparency about these issues going forward.

That makes Bannon one of the most interesting, if not the most interesting, pardon candidates, because he knows where all the bodies are buried, but he also told the truth, once.

48 replies
  1. joel fisher says:

    What does Trump get from pardoning Bannon or…..well, anyone? He is completely transactional and must, therefore, be expecting something–silence–in return. At some point, some lawyer must have sat him down and explained the 5th Amendment implications of a Presidential pardon. It would have been fun to hear him say, “You mean if I pardon someone they have to testify against me?”
    I’m convincing myself that in lieu of full pardons, Trump will issue pardons for some conduct while leaving other behavior un-pardoned, thus leaving a confused 5th Amendment picture that might well take years to sort out.
    I’m betting the only sure thing, full (“All crimes against the US”) pardons are: Trump himself, family, and, perhaps, Barr; and probably a commutation for Manafort.

    • John Langston says:

      I don’t see how it benefits Trump when anyone he pardons would have no 5th Amend rights. So unless Biden’s AG wants this to go away, then there’s lots of vulnerability. Heck, I’d make them all sing. Even for national security/counterintelligence reasons alone. I can just imagine Bannon, Stone, Flynn, Corsi, et al facing a cell for contempt or perjury. I think they’ll be practicing soprano or any other part that the investigators want to hear.

  2. Mitch Neher says:

    Ms. Wheeler wrote “. . . Trump’s interactions with Russia during the Transition four years ago . . .”

    That reminds me of something that’s been bugging me: Might there be any legal significance to the inconsistency between Trump’s position on his own executive privilege during his Transition as president-elect versus Trump’s ongoing refusal to acknowledge Biden as president-elect even while failing fully to cooperate with Biden’s Transition?

    • skua says:

      AIUI the Transition is not based on statute but practical procedures that became protocol/tradition over the centuries. Trump did his boorish “violate protocol” schtick on the way in, while in office, and on his way to the exit. His violations in this matter further corrode civil norms and put the republic at increased security risk and so have practical, but no legal, consequence for Biden’s Presidency. IANAL

      • Peterr says:

        The transition *is* based on statute: The Presidential Transition Act of 1963 (as amended). The summary at that link says this:

        The Act establishes an early and organized cadence for the federal government’s transition planning:

        + Before the election, each agency must designate a senior career official who will be in charge of transition planning, prepare transition briefing materials, and ensure that succession plans are in place so that as political appointees depart, career officials are prepared to step in place until new political appointees arrive.

        + Six months before an election, the President must establish a White House Transition Coordinating Council, chaired by a senior employee of the Executive Office of the President and consisting of other high-level officials, such as cabinet officers; the Directors of the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Government Ethics; the Administrator of GSA; and the Archivist of the United States. A transition representative of the major candidates also sits on the council. The council provides guidance to agencies on transition and facilitates communications between the administration and the transition teams.

        + The Act requires a standing Agency Transition Directors Council, co-chaired by GSA’s Federal Transition Coordinator and the Office of Management and Budget’s Deputy Director for Management, and including agency senior career officials responsible for transition activities as well as transition representative of the major candidates. This working-level council works toward an integrated, government-wide approach to transition and ensures that briefing materials are prepared.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Sorry. I didn’t really say what I was getting at. Here goes a second try:

        Is there any way to compel Trump to answer Mueller’s questions about events that occurred during Trump’s Transition period on the basis that Trump refuses to acknowledge Biden as president-elect and that, therefore, Trump had no executive privilege when Trump was president-elect, either?

  3. skua says:

    There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who have died as a result of how Trump and his associates decided to run things.

    If that matters then the 2021 DoJ will need to shine sanitising sunlight onto these people’s secret dealings.

    If Biden et al “look forward” instead of disinfecting, then look even further forward than Biden and see if that is something much worse than a Trump presidency rolling towards you.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      If Biden enforces a ‘look forward’ regime, it will show tremendous contempt towards the less historically franchised and more vulnerable groups that Trump’s actions had the greatest impact on. And what do they gain?

      Plus all those involved in this lumbering crime against humanity of an administration will quietly reappear in future Republican administrations.

      It is so frustrating to watch senior Democrats stand still frozen in space and time for fear of having to confront the political moment we are in.

      • P J Evans says:

        I think a bunch of the older ones have trouble getting that the GOP they grew up with is deader than Francisco Franco.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Even without prosecution, which would be my preference, exposure of the lies of Trump and his cohort might make them less valuable as propagandists. That would be a partial win, despite the establishment Dems’ addiction to looking forward, not back. (For those who think they learned anything from Obama’s lost opportunities, except, like Trump, to double down when losing, see House “centrists” denying AOC a seat on the E&C committee.)

  5. Peterr says:

    How do you solve a problem like Steve Bannon?
    How do you catch his lie and pin it down?
    How do you find the law that cracks Steve Bannon?
    A conspiracy charge or perjury charge, you clown!

    Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

      • Chris.EL says:

        Dr. emptywheel’s reference to nuns reminded me of (think it was NY times) story this morning of a group of nuns (8), living in their retirement home, have all died from covid! Brought tears to my eyes, so sad, lifetimes of kind, humanity-first work, your end of life is this and suffering.

        • Peterr says:

          Yes, it was the NYT:

          They were educators, music teachers and community activists who served tirelessly for those living in poverty.

          In less than two weeks, eight Roman Catholic sisters died of illnesses related to Covid-19 at a Wisconsin retirement home this month, a gut-wrenching loss that highlighted the risks of infection in communal residences, even as administrators said they took precautions against infection.

  6. BroD says:

    “and, perhaps, Barr”
    Yeah I know: John Mitchell but still, the prospect of seeing the Attorney fucking General of the US pardoned for crimes against the US is pretty goddamned staggering.

    • Wajim says:

      “Mick Mulvaney on my mind.”

      I haven’t shed a tear for months, but then you . . . Saturn and Jupiter are almost coincident tonight, you know

  7. Burqueley says:

    No need to post (I can’t remember my exact screen name): Check implied subject of introductory clause? “After threatening Chris Wray and Anthony Fauci with execution, Burck fired Bannon as a client.” Awesome work, thanks.

  8. Savage Librarian says:

    Hey, Marcy, I have been thinking something for a long time that I haven’t shared. Mostly because I have not seen or heard anyone mention his name relative to any investigations. But since we’re coming to the end of this administration, I hope I can share this without being too chagrined.

    Have you given any thought to “mystery name ending in R” being Ron Lauder? A connection between Charles Ortel and Lauder could be their appreciation and support of art. One common interest would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art (where annual reports list their names as donors.)

    But, particularly interesting is the photo below at Mar-a-Lago on 12/28/16 with Trump, Bannon and Lauder.

    “President-elect Donald Trump meets with Ronald Lauder center, and… News Photo” – Getty Images

    “President-elect Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago Club”

    PALM BEACH, FL – DECEMBER 28: “President-elect Donald Trump meets with Ronald Lauder (president of the World Jewish Congress) center, and Trump’s strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, left, at Mar-a-Lago Club on December 28, 2016 in Palm Beach, Fl. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)”

    • Savage Librarian says:

      In addition to the info below, keep in mind also that Lauder and George Nader also have had common interests, history, and experiences in the Middle East. That may partly explain that weird interview that Nader gave about Don Jr. pressuring him to set up a meeting with Bibi.

      “Ronald Lauder cozies up to Trump as his estranged ally Netanyahu watches and worries” – U.S. News – Haaretz

      “U.S President-elect Donald Trump stands next to Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, after a meeting at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, December 28, 2016.”
      “…there are those in Trump’s circles who – unhappily, it seems – call Lauder “the Palestinians’ man in D.C.” It has also been noted that Lauder met with Egypt’s President Abdul-Farrah al-Sissi in Cairo last month, paving the way for the Egyptian leader’s warm reception in Trump’s White House.”

      “Trump likes people familiar to him and Lauder is a face he has known for 50 years. The two men are wealthy New Yorkers of the same generation – both attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.”

      “Lauder, however, enjoyed easier entree into Manhattan high society as heir to his mother Estée Lauder’s cosmetics empire. The elder Lauder was helpful to young Trump while he was building his fortune and his brand, even naming a fragrance after him.”

      “Later, Ronald Lauder and Trump bonded politically over their support for and admiration of Ronald Reagan. In the 1980s the two men were New York tabloid fixtures: Trump for his audacious real estate and personal escapades, and Lauder for his stint as Reagan’s ambassador to Austria and his subsequent unsuccessful attempt to break into local politics by running for mayor in 1989. (He lost the Republican primary to Rudy Giuliani despite spending record sums on his campaign.)”

    • Chris.EL says:

      a native Californian, that I am, didn’t know much about Lauder ’til I saw film, “Woman in Gold” starring Helen Mirren (who has Russian heritage).

      Really helped my baby-boomer-self learn about the war, the sacrifices, suffering, etc.

      Lauder was portrayed in the film and real-life video of Lauder and the New York gallery that displays the incredible painting are on the DVD/Blu-ray I have.
      New York mag has a 50 pic gallery of former president Trump’s funniest photos.

      This one has always stood out; I believe former president Trump got the food for free — in exchange for the promotional advertising he accomplished.

      To my mind, one of a man’s sad personality qualities is being a cheapskate!
      Image from nymag

    • Peterr says:

      They identified the mystery name a couple of days after the initial story broke: Sanford Diller. From the NYT on Dec 4:

      A federal judge in Washington unsealed heavily redacted court documents on Tuesday that disclosed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. The people said it concerned efforts by the lawyer for Mr. Kushner, Abbe Lowell, and the fund-raiser, Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty in October to a charge related to a different scheme to lobby the Trump administration.

      A billionaire real estate developer from the San Francisco area, Sanford Diller, enlisted their help in securing clemency for a Berkeley psychologist, Hugh L. Baras, who had received a 30-month prison sentence on a conviction of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits, according to the filing and the people familiar with the case. Under the suspected scheme, Mr. Diller would make “a substantial political contribution” to an unspecified recipient in exchange for the pardon. He died in February 2018, and there is no evidence that the effort continued after his death.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Thanks, Peterr. Are we talking about the same person? I’m referring to the person Stone may have met through Ortel. I think Stone claimed to have had pizza with this person in NYC in early October 2016. I don’t think it had anything to do with Broidy. But things are so complicated, I easily could have missed or misunderstood something.

        • subtropolis says:

          Yes, Diller was a different mystery name than what you were referring to. Unfortunately, I don’t have Marcy’s capacity for keeping all of this straight, so can’t point to the source.

        • Peterr says:

          I was talking about the recent mystery about the person whose named ended with R, who was potentially offering a bribe in exchange for a pardon.

          • emptywheel says:

            Different guy. There, the ending of interest was the one that would have no apostrophe s. This is one tied to Stone. Best guess right now is that it is one of the Ratners or someone involved in the Peter Smith effort.

  9. morganism says:

    “So, what exactly drove these angry Kentuckians to reelect Mitch McConnell with a 19-point advantage over opponent Amy McGrath—57.8% to 38.2%?

    Even as Republicans across the country still insist that the election was rife with fraudulent Democratic votes, no one’s asking how McConnell managed one of the most lopsided landslides of the Nov. 3 election. They should. An investigation of Kentucky voting results by DCReport raises significant questions about the vote tallies in McConnell’s state.

    “In Breathitt Mitch got 234% more votes than they had registered Republicans
    Amys votes only represent 17% of registered Dems

    They’ll still say “Its just Kentucky. Look at voting history”

    Well, HISTORY shows 2 counties who NEVER before voted for Mitch gave him BIG wins in 2020″

    Wasn’t there an investigation that had the votes going to a private server of a contractor, before it went to the SoS in the 2008 election? Can’t find it on search because of the swamping by the 2019, and 2020 election.

    Was in VA or KY, pretty sure, and the contractor was tied to RNC and Rove?
    story was saved on the old hard drive, but believe no charges filed.

    • Xboxershorts says:

      There’s a reason they’re only pointing a finger at Dominion and ignoring ES&S.

      Everything this president (asshole, I mean) does, is smoke and mirrors…deflect and distract.

      But their argument is the very best argument to adopting a universal hand marked paper ballot in all our elections.

    • P J Evans says:

      A lot of the time people vote for the incumbent, rather than take a chance on someone they aren’t familiar with – even if it harms them.

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