Both Democrats and Republicans seem to have found an unlikely mutual foe in the Russia investigation: Steve Bannon. Bannon angered many Democrats and most Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee when he refused to answer any of their questions during testimony yesterday.
Lawmakers on the Committee are weighing the possibility of holding the former White House staffer in contempt of Congress. “I have contempt for Bannon anyway,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said.
Bannon seems to have offended many on the Committee when he accused them of being on a witch hunt in investigating the Russia scandal and whether there was any cooperation between them and the Trump campaign. Bannon said their inquiry into the scandal is really an attempt “to decertify the last election.” Bannon claimed executive privilege when refusing to answer the Committee’s questions.
Many lawmakers say they respect the right of any president, or their advisers to invoke the privilege, but there is less certainty about whether the privilege applies to communications that transpire either within a transition period, or after an adviser leaves the White House. These are the two periods the House Intelligence Committee was looking to question Bannon about yesterday. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said Bannon was invoking a version of executive privilege “that doesn’t exist and that no one’s ever heard of before.”
Bannon had been expected to return to face more questions today, but the Committee has given him until the end of the month to return. Bannon’s attorney said that they needed the time to work out with the White House the scope of the executive privilege they could invoke in his testimony.