After standing firm and refusing to testify before the committee for eight months, Steve Bannon reversed course on Saturday, suggesting former President Donald Trump had “waived” claims of executive privilege and permitted him to testify. POLITICO reported the reversal came after the former President signed a letter supporting Bannon’s reversal and claimed to “waive” executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony.
POLITICO also reported President Donald Trump’s attorney Justin Clark interviewed with federal investigators two weeks ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Vaughn said that Clark had confirmed in his June 29 interview that Trump had never invoked executive privilege to block Bannon from testifying.
Vaughn said, Clark told DOJ “that the former President never invoked executive privilege over any particular information or materials; that the former President’s counsel never asked or was asked to attend the Defendant’s deposition before the Select Committee; that the Defendant’s attorney misrepresented to the Committee what the former President’s counsel had told the Defendant’s attorney; and that the former President’s counsel made clear to the Defendant’s attorney that the letter provided no basis for total noncompliance.”
Vaughn noted that DOJ provided Bannon’s team with an FBI report of Clark’s interview on June 30, the day after it was conducted. Two sources familiar with Clark’s FBI interview said the session lasted 45 minutes and was limited to a discussion of Bannon’s case. In addition, the sources said, Clark did not discuss any of his conversations with Trump, which were treated as attorney-client privileged.
Bannon had promised to turn the criminal case against him into the “misdemeanor from hell” for the Justice Department.
But the New York Times reports that with the possibility of two years in jail and large fines looming on the horizon, Mr. Bannon has been authorized to testify by Mr. Trump, his lawyer told the committee late on Saturday in a letter, which was reported earlier by The Guardian.
“When you first received the subpoena to testify and provide documents, I invoked executive privilege,” Mr. Trump wrote in his letter to Mr. Bannon on Saturday. “However, I watched how unfairly you and others have been treated, having to spend vast amounts of money on legal fees and all of the trauma you must be going through for the love of your country and out of respect for the office of the president.”
“Therefore,” he continued, “if you reach an agreement on a time and place for your testimony, I will waive executive privilege for you, which allows for you to go in and testify truthfully and fairly, as per the request of the unselect committee of political thugs and hacks.”
The former president had previously instructed Mr. Bannon and other associates not to cooperate with the panel, claiming that executive privilege — a president’s power to withhold certain internal executive branch information, especially confidential communications involving him or his top aides — compelled them to stay silent. But in recent days, as several witnesses have come forward to offer the House panel damning testimony about his conduct, Mr. Trump has grown frustrated that one of his fiercest defenders has not yet appeared before the committee, people close to him said.
“Mr. Bannon is willing to, and indeed prefers, to testify at your public hearing,” Robert J. Costello, Mr. Bannon’s lawyer, wrote to Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee.
“Our position about the committee remains unchanged, but President Trump wants Mr. Bannon to tell the committee the truth,” Mr. Costello said on Sunday. He said Mr. Bannon planned to supply the committee with documents as well as testimony.
Given that the Committee has carefully choreographed its hearings, even hiring a Hollywood “show runner” to produce the made-for-tv hearings, we doubt that Steve Bannon will deliver one minute of public testimony. Instead, as it has done with other pro-Trump witnesses, we expect the Committee to leak its version of what Mr. Bannon says – or doesn’t say – to its media allies to prepare the public perception environment for the Committee’s ultimate purpose – the indictment of Donald Trump.
Steve Bannon testimony
January 6 Committee
Justin Clark FBI interview
President Donald Trump