House panel wants documents from Bannon

Carlo Barbieri

Carlo Barbieri

"You'd have to ask the White House [why]", he said.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon, left, leaves a House Intelligence Committee meeting where he was interviewed behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in Washington.

Mr Bannon, recently disavowed by President Donald Trump, will discuss his time with the Trump campaign and White House directly with the investigators, bypassing questioning in front of a grand jury.

The White House on Wednesday refused to say whether it had actually invoked executive privilege, however.

The White House requests, which Bannon chose to honour, sparked a battle over the reach and limits of executive privilege on Tuesday as Bannon met behind closed doors with the Intelligence panel's Russian Federation probe.

Former White House adviser Steve Bannon is willing to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into whether President Donald Trump's campaign coordinated with Russian Federation to influence the election, according to multiple media reports late Tuesday and early Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

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Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked about the White House's involvement in Bannon's testimony Tuesday, said the administration is cooperating with the investigation. The White House has indicated, CBS News has learned, that it is open to a new scope of inquiry regarding Bannon, but wants to go through a certain process.

"We have been fully cooperative with these ongoing investigations, and encourage the committees to work with us to find an appropriate accommodation in order to ensure Congress obtains information necessary to its legitimate interests".

On Tuesday, Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

In a letter back to the committee Wednesday, Burck suggested it would be "unprofessional and possibly unethical to expect to depose a witness who has had no opportunity to review relevant documents", concluding it would be "unreasonable" to expect Bannon to comply with the request by Thursday afternoon.

"The scope of this assertion of privilege - if that's what it is - is breathtaking", Schiff said. The White House is blaming the committee for not knowing what it is doing, and pointing to written guidance on congressional testimony. "This obviously can't stand".

Bannon reportedly downplayed those comments to Wolff during the interview, calling them "hyperbole".

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Objections to the sweeping preemptive claim of potential executive privilege were echoed by Representative Trey Gowdy of SC, a Republican who has generally supported the president. "We're going to get the answers to our questions", he said, adding: "The subpoena is still in place".

According to House Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, R-California, Bannon refused to answer a number of questions.

The standoff has put the committee on high alert as it holds interviews with other members of Trump's inner circle this week, including White House communications director Hope Hicks, who is expected to speak with the panel on Friday. Dorf said that though it seems unusual for a witness' lawyer to consult in real time with the White House about which questions can be answered, it is a "bit more respectful" than a pre-emptive blanket refusal to answer questions.

In essence, the White House is hoping to reap numerous benefits of executive privilege, without President Donald Trump officially asserting the privilege.

He didn't refer to the official by name, but it was White House deputy chief of staff, Rick Dearborn. That there was no collusion.

On Wednesday, White House officials said that the phone calls with the counsel's office were standard procedure followed by past administrations in dealings with Congress.

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A lawyer who represented Bannon in an appearance before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Tuesday could not be immediately reached.

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