Bannon attorney took direction from White House during House interview

Elias Hubbard
January 18, 2018

President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon declined on Tuesday to comply with a subpoena ordering him to answer questions from a U.S. House intelligence panel about his time at the White House as part of its investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Bannon's lawyer, Bill Burck, was in constant contact with the White House counsel's office during the interview, according to the report, and he was told to advise Bannon not to discuss his work on the transition team or in the White House.

"And I am really frustrated when witnesses have all the time in the world to talk to the media on- and off-the-record and they can help people write books, but they can't talk to the representatives that are elected by their fellow citizens", Gowdy said, in reference to Bannon's comments to Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff.

It's unclear who at the White House Burck was speaking to, and the White House has denied the claims.

Bannon refused to speak not only about his time at the White House, but also any conversations he had with President Trump after he had left the administration "that might be for the objective of the President seeking his advice on anything", Schiff said. They spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Stephen Bannon wrapped up more than 11 hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, where his refusal to answer questions repeatedly frustrated lawmakers.

Two other Trump associates, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn, and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, were due to appear before the House panel behind closed doors on Wednesday, congressional sources said.

The development brought to the forefront questions about White House efforts to control what current and former aides may or may not tell Congress about their time in Trump's inner circle, and whether Republicans who hold majorities on Capitol Hill will force the issue.

Bannon reportedly claimed that he was maintaining executive privilege by not answering any questions.

"It's kind of a game of separation-of-powers chicken that's going on there", he said. He was told by that office not to discuss his work on the transition or in the White House.

Even after the panel issued a subpoena, however, Bannon and his attorney declined to answer questions about events that occurred after Election Day.

The Democrat added that Bannon also would not discuss how the White House responded to reports previous year of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians and Trump officials - and whether there were any steps taken by the White House "to hinder" the Russia inquiry. The White House learned that news of the meeting would be published by New York Times while they were overseas in Germany for the G-20 meeting.

"No.no. Steve has had very, very little contact with the White House since he left", Kelly said, when asked if Bannon invoked executive privilege during certain lines of questioning.

The White House replied and told Bannon's lawyer which questions he should and shouldn't respond to.

White House lawyers to date have prided themselves on their cooperation with Mueller, making documents and witnesses available upon request without asserting privileges that could slow the investigation in a protracted legal fight.

"This, in my view, is completely unacceptable", Schiff said. After saying he would answer all of the committee's questions, Lewandowski on Wednesday refused to answer any about things that happened after his time on the campaign, saying he wasn't prepared, Schiff said. It is not clear whether that news affected the committee's decision to issue subpoenas also.

Bannon, who was a close adviser during President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and in his first months in office, had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Mueller's probe of links between Russian Federation and Trump's campaign.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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