Published: Sat, February 17, 2018

Bannon Roadblocks Congress After Multiple Meetings With Mueller

Bannon Roadblocks Congress After Multiple Meetings With Mueller

The congressman explained that Bannon refused to answer questions about conversations he had after the 2016 presidential campaign and after he left the Trump administration.

Schiff said Bannon's 25 approved questions were written to mislead the committee.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon had a busy week on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers from both parties said Bannon should be held in contempt if he failed to appear for the scheduled interview Thursday morning, a date that has already been pushed back three times as the committee has fought with Bannon's lawyer and the White House over the scope of the lawmakers' questions.

Intelligence committee members suggested last week that Bannon may be held in contempt of Congress if he continues to refuse to cooperate. Such a charge could bring a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

During that interview, Bannon refused to answer most questions about his work on the Trump transition team and during his White House stint.

NBC reported that Bannon met with Mueller's team for over 20 hours over a couple days earlier this week. It's unknown what was discussed at those meetings, or if Bannon was more forthcoming in those talks.

Conaway described "a little frustration" among committee members and said he intends to review the mechanics of a contempt citation, including whether it will require the committee to vote or can simply be raised on the House floor. "That's how stonewalling works", Schiff told reporters.

Democrats are pushing for a contempt vote, with the top Democrat on the intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, saying he believed Bannon's non-answers were all an attempt to draw out and block the Russian Federation probe. "I think he (Bannon) should answer our questions", he told reporters.

"He did not answer all the questions we'd like answered", said Conaway, who called the meeting "frustrating". Should they decide to seek a contempt citation, a vote in the House Intelligence Committee would first be required - and later, probably, a resolution by the whole House - before the case would be transferred to the courts.

He also played a key role in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign and took part in transition meetings that are now being examined.

Schiff has said the White House was barring Bannon from testifying on "matters during the transition, his tenure at the White House, and his communications with the president since leaving government service, even though the president has not in fact invoked executive privilege".

Schiff said the committee gave Bannon the chance, under House rules, "to provide any basis he felt for why he should not be held in contempt.and Mr. Bannon did not avail himself of that opportunity". The Senate panel hasn't yet spoken to Bannon, according to a source familiar with the probe.

"Hats off to Steve Bannon", Schiff said. "When we asked the question, "Did you talk with X", the answer was 'yes"; when we asked, 'What did they discuss?', there was the invocation of privilege".

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