Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, accompanied by his legal team, arrived on Capitol Hill for a closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
The meeting is in response to a subpoena that gave Bannon one week to comply. The former executive chairman of Breitbart and leader for the Trump campaign stood up the committee last week and has repeatedly rescheduled planned appearances.
Bannon, a key figure in the Trump campaign and West Wing until he was forced out of the administration in August, has been at odds with the panel investigation Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election over his testimony.
He first met with the committee behind closed doors in January, when he told congressional investigators privately that the meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton in June of 2016 at Trump Tower was “unpatriotic,” according to sources familiar with the meeting.
Bannon’s comments came after he attempted to distance himself from disparaging comments he made about the meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by author Michael Wolff.
But more significant was what he wouldn’t say to the committee: Bannon, through his attorney who was communicating with the White House, refused to answer questions about his time working for Trump on the campaign trail and in administration, citing concerns of executive privilege.
“We were told by White House lawyers that Mr. Bannon was not authorized to speak about his time on the transition or in the White House until the Committee and the White House agreed on the proper scope of questioning,” Bannon attorney William Burck told ABC News at the time.
“The White House instructed Mr. Bannon not to talk about the transition and the White House until the President decides what information he will invoke executive privilege over and what information he will not,” he said.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the panel, has accused the White House of imposing a “gag order” on Bannon, as President Trump hasn’t formally invoked executive privilege.
He’s called for the committee to begin contempt proceedings against Bannon if he doesn’t cooperate.
In a statement issued last week, Schiff also revealed that the White House sought to limit Bannon’s testimony to a set of 14 yes-or-no pre-approved questions.
Bannon was also expected to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators, and sources close to Bannon said he plans to fully cooperate with the ongoing Mueller investigation.
“We expect him to come in and answer our questions,” Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, a senior committee Republican leading the Russia probe, told ABC News Wednesday afternoon.
Before the scheduled appearance today, the House counsel was working with the White House and Bannon’s attorneys to negotiate the terms of his interview, according to committee members.
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