The House Intelligence Committee has postponed a planned Thursday afternoon interview with Stephen K. Bannon, a former White House adviser and architect of President Trump’s campaign, after his lawyer protested the panel had not given them enough time to coordinate with the administration about what he could discuss.
The committee’s deputy staff director on Thursday told Bannon’s lawyer, William Burck, that the panel “is prepared to extend the return date on the subpoena” it issued for Bannon’s testimony during a closed-door interview Tuesday, according to emails shared with The Washington Post. In a rare moment of bipartisanship for the panel, committee Republicans and Democrats decided to serve Bannon with a subpoena mid-interview after he refused to answer questions about the transition period, his time in the administration, and conversations he had with Trump since leaving the White House in August, arguing, through his lawyer, that the White House might seek to exert executive privilege over those matters.
In a Wednesday letter to Burck, committee members Reps. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.), who is running its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the panel’s ranking Democrat, told Bannon to return Thursday at 2 p.m. to face similar questions, and “clarify” with the White House before then “the precise scope of any executive privilege claims the president may wish to invoke.”
Burck wrote back to the committee Wednesday evening, telling Conaway and Schiff that they had given Bannon “plainly insufficient time” to carry out the request and that there was “no conceivable way” they could complete the discussions with the White House in time.
The committee suggested Monday, Jan. 29 as an alternative. Bannon has yet to agree to the date.
Members have bristled at what some believe is White House overreach with executive privilege. Though the administration has not made a formal claim of executive privilege to prevent any witness from testifying to the intelligence panel, several Trump affiliates have refused to answer the committee’s questions in deference to the Trump administration potentially wanting to invoke executive privilege.
With Bannon, members appeared to hit a breaking point. During his Tuesday interview, Burck kept associates in the White House Counsel’s Office apprised of the questions his client was being asked, according to an official involved in the discussions. The official said the counsel’s office was alarmed at the scope of them: They had expected the panel would ask Bannon about his time leading the campaign, but nothing more.
Panel members of both parties insisted they never agreed to limited terms, and that Bannon’s resistance caught them by surprise — particularly when he suggested executive privilege might apply to his work on the transition team, before Trump was actually president.
Senior GOP member Thomas J. Rooney (Fla.) called it “an institutional issue . . . not a partisan issue,” while Schiff said Congress “cannot allow a precedent where the White House can simply say, with no invocation of privilege that . . . ‘we’re simply going to deny Congress information.’”