House Panel Subpoenas Bannon 01/17 06:15
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Tuesday refused to
answer a broad array of queries from the House Intelligence Committee about his
time working for President Donald Trump, provoking a subpoena from the panel's
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on
Tuesday refused to answer a broad array of queries from the House Intelligence
Committee about his time working for President Donald Trump, provoking a
subpoena from the panel's Republican chairman.
The development brought to the forefront questions about White House efforts
to control what the former adviser tells Congress about his time in Trump's
inner circle --- and whether Republicans on Capitol Hill would force the issue.
The congressional subpoena came the same day The New York Times reported
that Bannon --- a former far-right media executive and recently scorned
political adversary of the president's --- has been subpoenaed by special
counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a federal grand jury.
With the issuance of Mueller's subpoena, Bannon became the highest-ranking
person who served in the Trump White House to be called before a grand jury as
part of the special counsel's investigation.
By itself, the move doesn't confirm that Mueller is presenting evidence to
support future criminal charges. But it does show that Mueller is still
actively using a grand jury as he probes the actions of Trump, his family and
his staff during the campaign, the presidential transition and the early months
of the administration.
Congressional officials declined to say whether Bannon disclosed Mueller's
subpoena during an all-day, closed-door interview with members of the House
The members grilled Bannon as part of the committee's investigation into
Russian election inference. Lawmakers also wanted answers about Trump's
thinking when he fired FBI Director James Comey.
But Bannon refused to answer questions about that crucial period, prompting
the committee's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, to issue the
subpoena, said Nunes spokesman Jack Langer.
Late Tuesday, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the
committee, said Bannon's refusal to answer those questions came at the
instruction of the White House.
"This was effectively a gag order by the White House," Schiff said shortly
after Bannon's interview concluded. Schiff said the committee plans to call
Bannon back for a second interview.
A spokeswoman for Bannon did not respond to multiple requests for comment
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "no one" had
encouraged Bannon not to be transparent during questioning but there's a
"process of what that looks like."
"As with all congressional inquiries touching upon the White House, Congress
must consult with the White House prior to obtaining confidential material.
This is part of a judicially recognized process that goes back decades,"
Sanders told reporters.
A White House official said the president did not seek to formally exert
executive privilege over Bannon --- a move that would have barred him from
answering certain questions. The official said the administration believes it
doesn't have to invoke the privilege to keep Bannon from answering questions
about his time in the White House. The official spoke on condition of anonymity
to discuss internal deliberations.
The House committee had planned to press Bannon on "executive actions" taken
by Trump that have drawn interest from congressional investigators prying into
ties between Trump's campaign and Russian operatives, said another person, who
wasn't authorized to speak on the record about the closed-door session and
spoke on condition of anonymity.
Those key elements bear directly on the criminal investigation led by
Mueller, who is charged with investigating ties between the Trump campaign and
Russia and whether the president obstructed justice by firing Comey or by
taking other actions to thwart investigators.
The focus on Bannon follows his spectacular fall from power after being
quoted in a book saying that he sees the president's son and others as engaging
in "treasonous" behavior for taking a meeting with Russians during the 2016
In Michael Wolff's "Fire and Fury," Bannon accuses Donald Trump Jr., Jared
Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of essentially
betraying the nation by meeting with a group of Russian lawyers and lobbyists
who they believed were ready to offer "dirt" on Democratic candidate Hillary
More recently, Bannon has said he was not referring to Trump Jr. but rather
to Manafort. Wolff stands by his account.
After the book's release, Trump quickly disavowed "Sloppy Steve Bannon" and
repeatedly argued there was no evidence of collusion between his presidential
campaign and operatives tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bannon
apologized a few days later but was stripped of his job leading the pro-Trump
website Breitbart News.
Bannon last year had largely avoided the scrutiny of congressional
investigators, who instead focused much of their energy on trying to secure
interviews with top witnesses like Manafort and former national security
adviser Michael Flynn.
But Bannon played a critical role in the campaign, the presidential
transition and the White House --- all now under scrutiny from congressional