Bannon 'stonewalled' congressmen during committee hearing

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Former White House strategist Steve Bannon declined to answer some questions on Thursday (Feb 15) during a closed-door meeting with the House panel conducting a Russian Federation probe, deepening a standoff between the panel and the White House.

Schiff said that Bannon only agreed to answer 25 yes-or-no questions that had been written by the White House.

CNN reports that Bannon met briefly with the committee today and told the panel he had been instructed by the Trump administration to invoke executive privilege.

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".

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Bannon is one of several key Trump associates whose testimony has been delayed before the House panel.

Mr. Conaway said lawyers are now reviewing whether Mr. Bannon's use of executive and presidential communication privileges was appropriate, and wouldn't commit to bringing a vote to hold Mr. Bannon in contempt just yet.

Mr Schiff called for the initiation of contempt of Congress proceedings against Mr Bannon.

After the meeting, which lasted less than three hours, Conaway said he would discuss how to proceed with Ryan and House lawyers about the scope of executive privilege sought by the White House.

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Bannon's initial appearance before the committee came on January 17 and was interrupted several times.

The congressman left open the possibility that Congress will consider holding the former Breitbart News chairman in contempt. He also represents White House counsel Don McGahn and former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

"There is no plausible claim of privilege that could apply to those circumstances", he said.

"I think he should answer our questions", Conaway, who runs the panel's Russian Federation investigation, said Thursday. Now several Republicans say that holding Bannon in contempt, if he does not cooperate with their interview, will be necessary to send a message to this and future administrations that they can not blithely ignore congressional subpoenas and other oversight. "I think he came in and answered eight hours' worth of questions based on the letter we sent him and his employment with the Trump Organization and Trump campaign".

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Republicans say they're particularly at odds with Bannon's stance that executive privilege could extend to the transition period, and say they're anxious about the precedent it would set. Conaway said, however, that Nunes has no role in determining next steps on the Bannon matter.

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