The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, was interviewed by NPR about former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s testimoy. During his 10 hours of testimony, very little information was obtained from Bannon. He repeatedly said that the White House had advised him that he should not talk to the committee.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the White House’s position after Bannon’s testimony, saying, “Look, we’ve been completely cooperative throughout this entire process. We’re going to continue to be cooperative, but we’re also going to maintain some of the executive privileges here at the White House that have been practiced for decades and that need to be maintained.”
Rachel Martin of NPR asked Congressman Schiff what Bannon, his legal team, and the committee did to fill the 10 hour void in testimony. Schiff replied:
“Well, he was largely consulting with the White House – at least his lawyer was – to give us shifting rationales for why they couldn’t answer questions. And I have to say, I’m very amused by Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ response that they’re fully cooperative. That’s true if you consider fully cooperative instructing key witnesses not to answer questions before Congress. Otherwise, they’re not cooperative at all.
There’s no broad privilege that prevents Steve Bannon or anyone else from having to answer questions before Congress. This wasn’t asserted merely with respect to a specific conversation with the president but rather for any meetings, any conversations with anyone during the transition or during his time in administration. And that simply is unsustainable.”
Ms. Martin noted that the Trump administration arguing that Bannon had retroactive “executive privelege” since they were arguing that the current privilege should stretch back to before Trump was even in office. She then asked, “What did you want to know from Steve Bannon?” Schiff responded:
“Well, first of all, that claim of executive privilege really doesn’t apply here because they didn’t claim executive privilege. No privilege has been asserted. So that really doesn’t square either. But there are a great many things we wanted to know from Steve Bannon, and we’re going to have to bring him back in and take it to court if necessary.
We want to know, for example, about the formation of the misleading statement following revelations that there was a Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a delegation of Russians. What was the president’s role? Were there any acts of obstruction of justice? Were there any instructions given to Mr. Bannon or others to take any steps to hinder the Russian investigation?”
Bannon walked into that room with no intention of testifying. Unlike Trump, Bannon isn’t an idiot; he and his legal team know that he could get away with his Alternative Fifth Amendment, pleading the White House told him not to talk, because the committee would be so astounded by the lack of respect and hubris he was showing.
It’s time for Mueller to subpoena Steve Bannon. Subpoenas don’t care if the White House told you not to spill your guts, and Mueller probably doesn’t either.