A lawyer for Steve Bannon has told the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack that the former Donald Trump campaign chief would not comply with its subpoena, citing the former president’s intention to invoke executive privilege.
Robert Costello, Bannon’s lawyer, wrote to House investigators on Thursday that Trump had instructed Bannon not to comply with the subpoena on the basis of executive privilege, adding that Bannon would wait for the courts to resolve any disputes.
“Until these issues are resolved, we are unable to respond to your request for documents and testimony,” Costello wrote to the Jan. 6 committee. Costello’s letter was first reported by The New York Times; POLITICO reported on Thursday that Trump had instructed Bannon and other former aides subpoenaed by the select panel not to comply with lawmakers’ demands.
It’s a potentially dubious claim from Bannon’s lawyer, because the ex-Trump aide was years removed from the White House by the time the former president’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election — the subject of the committee’s subpoena — began in earnest. Executive privilege is typically reserved for a president’s closest advisers and not meant to be a broad shield for testimony requests.
The select panel investigating the insurrection by Trump supporters had subpoenaed four onetime aides to the former president: former White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows, longtime Trump adviser Dan Scavino, former Trump Pentagon aide Kash Patel and Bannon. All were asked to provide documents by Thursday, and the panel is also seeking to depose the four men next week.
A lawyer for Meadows didn’t immediately return a request for comment on the subpoena deadline.
Patel said in a statement Thursday that “I will continue to tell the American people the truth about January 6, and I am putting our country and freedoms first through my Fight with Kash initiative.”
If any of the foursome don’t comply, the committee could seek criminal contempt referrals, which would require the House to take a full floor vote when it returns to session later this month. That move, if taken, would send the matter to the Justice Department for review. It’s unclear whether DOJ would act quickly on any prospective referrals, but members of the Jan. 6 panel have expressed hope that the Biden administration would act urgently.
The Jan. 6 committee’s chair, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), has indicated he wants to complete its investigation by the spring. That timeframe, if the nine-member bipartisan panel wants to stick to it, does not allow for protracted legal battles over enforcing subpoenas or litigating against recalcitrant witnesses.
Betsy Woodruff Swan contributed.