Tuesday morning, former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon met with the House Intelligence Committee, and the situation got heated during the all day hearing, according to reports.
Just hours after the hearing began, the New York Times reported that special counsel Robert Mueller had served Bannon with a grand jury subpoena last week. “The subpoena is a sign that Mr. Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation. Justice Department rules allow prosecutors to subpoena the targets of investigations only in rare circumstances,” the NY Times reported.
Tuesday, as the hearing with the House Intelligence Committee went on behind closed doors for 10 hours, Bannon reportedly refused to answer questions, citing executive privilege.
With his lawyer beside him, Bannon said he would answer questions about the Trump campaign, but would not discuss his work on the transition team nor his time in the White House, and would only respond to those questions when he speaks to Mueller.
The Hill reported that Bannon’s refusal to answer their questions “infuriated” the lawmakers, and that the meeting turned into a “total free-for-all” and “brutal.”
Since Bannon refused to talk, the House Intelligence Committee issued an immediate subpoena during the hearing. However, Bannon still did not immediately comply with the subpoena and answer their questions, The Hill reported.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) confirmed to reporters that he authorized the congressional subpoenas, saying, “That’s how the rules work.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told Tucker Carlson in a Fox News interview after the hearing, “It was the most tortured analysis of executive privilege I’ve ever seen,” and said this was an “executive privilege” that never existed before today. “We can’t make a witness answer a question,” he said in frustration.
GOP SC Rep & Intel Cmte mbr Trey Gowdy on Fox on Steve Bannon’s appearance today: It was the most tortured analysis of executive privilege I’ve ever seen
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 17, 2018
Gowdy: Dems want to drag out Russian collusion probe
Rep. Trey Gowdy on executive privilege and Steve Bannon testifying before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its Russia probe, Special Counsel Mueller’s subpoena. #Tucker https://t.co/LvPNvZGD3e
— William B. (@willbarrett_1) January 17, 2018
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) also spoke about the executive privilege Bannon cited in a CNN interview with Anderson Cooper:
Democrat Rep. Jim Himes: Bannon and his counsel asserted a “remarkably broad … very novel” definition of executive privilege in testimony today pic.twitter.com/HhvbSJ50mB
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) January 17, 2018