Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon conducted a voluntary interview with the House Intelligence Committee over the course of 9 hours on Tuesday.
According to sources within the meeting, he cited executive privilege, and refused to answer any questions about his time on the transition team, his experience in the Trump White House, or even conversations he has conducted afterwards.
His position caused some serious anger among the attending lawmakers, and resulted in a “free for all” according to reports.
It was revealed during Bannon’s refusal that he had been personally instructed(by the White House) to claim executive privvilege if questioned about anything pertaining to his time with President Trump.
The move was seen as unusual for several reasons.
- Trump himself did not claim executive privilege, but did so through a witness that could incriminate him
- Bannon’s decision is only going to prolong an investigation that the White House has claimed it wants wrapped up
- Typically, a President would waive executive privilege if there was suspiscon that a crime had taken place
- If Trump is innocent, if this is a witch hunt, why does the President seem like he was terrified of Bannon telling the committee what he knows?
When it became clear that Bannon was not going to cooperate based on the instructions of the White House, and the fact that it was a voluntary interview, he was promptly served with a subpoena on the spot.
Bannon did reveal however that special counsel Robert Mueller had indeed slapped him with a grand jury subpenoa a week earlier, and would be interviewing Bannon in some capacity in short order.
It was reported after the fact by the Wall Street Journal that Bannon has been visited at his home by the FBI, and informed he would be interviewed either informally, or in front of a grand jury.
The situation has placed Bannon in a legal headlock.
If he continues to refuse to answer questions under a congressional subpoena, they could hold him in contempt of Congress, and throw him in jail.
"We witnessed today what I believe was the most aggressive effort by the White House thus far to obstruct our efforts to seek the truth."@RepSwalwell reacts to Steve Bannon's refusal to answer questions at the W.H.'s direction during his 9.5-hour under-oath testimony. #LastWord pic.twitter.com/TmUVKm3hXL
— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) January 17, 2018
Considering the fact that Bannon has relentlessy attacked the GOP, and gone out of his way to anger Democrats, Bannon did not have many advocates in the room, and he certainly doesn’t now.
Bannon also has been ousted from Trump’s inner circle after the publication of Fire and Fury.
It would seem Bannon does not have a friend in Washington DC, but he also has nothing to lose, and that fact alone makes him beyond dangerous to the Trump Presidency.
Robert Mueller is not totally intent on forcing Bannon in front of a grand jury as he is most likely not a central target, but the spector of such a request has to send a shiver down the spine of the White House.
Bannon won’t be able to cite some obscure version of executive privilege when dealing with the DOJ, and even if he does, Mueller can disregard it, and deal with the legal fallout after the fact.
The point is, Bannon will have to answer questions under oath, and he has serious legal liability if he fails to answer openly, and honestly.
Steve Bannon is between a rock, and a hard place, dammed if he does, and dammed if he doesn’t.
The Daily Beast reported Tuesday evening that Bannon would be much more open with Mueller than he was with Congress, but thats hardy a headline because the man does not have a choice.
Some observers found it odd that Bannon was willing to speak with Michael Wolff for his book, but refused to answer questions in a Congressional hearing that was transitioned to mandatory after he refused to answer questions.
Bannon’s legal stance is seen as a precursor to President Trump’s legal defense, and makes it more and more unlikely that Trump will allow himself to be interviewed by Robert Mueller unless he too is hit with a grand jury subpoena.
The White House scrambling to slience an important witness in the developing Russia investigation implies guilt, clearly these people have something to hide, and they are willing to bend the rules that apply to the executive branch to weasel out of an objective legal process.
Our government contains three branches, and the operation is predicated upon all 3 branches working together.
What we saw yesterday was an unprecedented example of the executive branch refusing to cooperate with the legislative, and judicial branch.
The situation is fast becoming a Constitutional crisis, and it will only get worse as the Trump administration does everything possible to insulate a President that is dripping with legal liability.
Bannon cuts a deal: Will interview with Mueller’s team to avoid going before grand jury for now, via @KaraScannell
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 17, 2018
Steve Bannon has cut a deal with Robert Mueller sometime over the last 12 hours, and will become a cooperating witness against the Trump administration.