Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, was interviewed by NPR about what exactly happened when former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon testified last week. Despite Bannon’s having testified for 10 hours, very little information was obtained. Mr. Bannon introduced an Alternative Fifth Amendment into the proceedings by telling the committee that the White House advised him not to talk to them.
Following Bannon’s 10 hour marathon of not-testifying, Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the White House’s position… because of course she did. Sanders said, “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.”
NPR’s Rachel Martin asked Congressman Schiff what exactly Bannon, his legal team, and the committee did to fill that 10 hour void.
“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.”
Martin reiterated that the Trump administration is basically requesting retroactive “executive privilege” since they are arguing the current privilege can stretch back to before President Trump was even in office. She asked, “What did you want to know from Steve Bannon?”
“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?”
Imagine the lack of respect to just waltz into something of this magnitude with full knowledge that you have no intention of cooperating. At all. Bannon doesn’t take this seriously because he believes he’s made of teflon. Unlike our current president, Steve Bannon actually isn’t an idiot. This means, Steve Bannon and company knew that he would be able to get away with his Alternative Fifth Amendment or Dr. Who Executive Privilege, probably because the committee would be so flummoxed by the hubris.
It’s time for Mueller to subpoena Steve Bannon. Unless, of course, he is already working his clandestine Mueller-magic on him… whether Bannon knows it or not.