Former Trump aide Steve Bannon will not appear to give evidence before the House committee investigating the 6 January insurrection, his lawyer said on Thursday.
The former White House chief strategist turned podcast host was scheduled to appear for a deposition before the Select Committee to Investigate the 6 January attack on the United States Capitol under the terms of a subpoena issued to him last month.
Robert Costello, an attorney for Mr Bannon, told The Independent that Mr Bannon won’t be appearing before the committee, despite having been ordered to by a subpoena issued to him last month. “He will not be testifying at this time,” Mr Costello said in a text message.
In a letter to committee chairman Representative Bennie Thompson, Mr Costello explained that Mr Bannon’s refusal to cooperate is based on a claim of executive privilege purportedly made by former President Donald Trump.
“Until such a time as you reach an agreement with President Trump or receive a court ruling as to the extent, scope and application of the executive privilege ... Mr Bannon will not be producing documents or testifying,” he wrote.
Most legal experts say Mr Trump lost the ability to invoke executive privilege – a legal doctrine which protects presidents’ communications with advisers – when President Joe Biden was sworn in on 20 January, as the privilege belongs to the sitting chief executive and the office of the presidency, not a former president.
Mr Bannon’s refusal to give evidence or cooperate with the committee in any way makes it likely that he will be subject to criminal charges for contempt of Congress.
In a statement last week, Mr Thompson and Vice Chair Representative Liz Cheney vowed to quickly take action against any witness who wilfully ignores the committee’s demands for testimony and documents.
“We will not allow any witness to defy a lawful subpoena or attempt to run out the clock, and we will swiftly consider advancing a criminal contempt of Congress referral,” Mr Thompson and Ms Cheney said.
If both a majority of the committee and a majority of the full House of Representatives vote to authorise a criminal contempt referral against Mr Bannon, such a referral would be sent by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the US Attorney for the District of Columbia, who is required by law to present the case for contempt charges to a grand jury.
While previous administrations have often declined to act on criminal contempt referrals from Congress, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki last week said the Biden administration would “of course” follow the law.
Three other former Trump administration officials — former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Daniel Scavino, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and former Defence Department official Kashyap Patel — were issued subpoenas commanding them to give evidence to the committee this week.
Mr Patel is also scheduled to appear for a deposition on Thursday, but although committee sources say he is “engaging” with the committee, it remains unclear whether he will show up.
Mr Meadows, who served as a North Carolina congressman until he resigned to become Mr Trump’s top aide in April 2020, is also said to be “engaging” with the committee.
He is expected to appear on Friday, but has not indicated whether he will do so. Mr Scavino is not expected to appear because he successfully evaded being served with the subpoena until late last week and so will not have to give evidence for another few weeks.
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