President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon refused to answer questions Tuesday from the House intelligence committee about his time in the White House, prompting panel members to subpoena him on the spot, according to a person familiar with the interview.
Bannon appeared before the committee as part of its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, speaking just weeks after a falling-out with Trump over comments he made in an explosive new book.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) confirmed Tuesday that he issued a subpoena for Bannon.
“Of course I authorized the subpoena,” he told reporters. “That’s how the rules work.”
According to the person familiar with the interview, Bannon’s attorney told the committee he wouldn’t discuss anything about his time in the White House or during the transition after the 2016 election. During that period, Trump allegedly sought a pledge of loyalty from then-FBI Director James Comey and later fired him.
The source said Republicans lawmakers — including Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and former federal prosecutor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — were frustrated that Bannon was not more forthcoming. Bannon did not invoke executive privilege, the source said.
Bannon, his attorney and his spokeswoman were not immediately available for comment. It was not immediately clear whether Bannon asserted executive privilege to avoid answering certain questions.
A White House official said the lawmakers overlooked a standard practice of coordinating with the White House to get information. “It’s a grandstanding move,” the official said of the subpoena issued to Bannon.
The dispute inside the committee room comes as Bannon was also reportedly subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller in his criminal probe of Russian meddling. The New York Times reported that Mueller’s subpoena was the first grand jury subpoena issued against a member of Trump’s inner circle in the probe.
Bannon occupied a senior position in the administration when the Times revealed a June 2016 meeting organized by the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and Kremlin-linked people. Mueller has reportedly been interested in a series of misleading statements that emerged about that meeting.
In a new book, “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff, Bannon described that meeting as “treasonous” and suggested Trump Jr., as well as Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, could be in legal jeopardy. Bannon later expressed regret about his comments about the president’s son.
Darren Samuelsohn contributed to this report.
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