Steve Bannon testified behind closed doors for 10 hours yesterday in front of the House Intelligence Committee who are investigating the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Anyone expecting bombshell revelations was sorely disappointed, however, as the former White House Senior Advisor gave few answers to the Committee’s questions, citing an executive privilege order from the Trump administration to not discuss his time working in the Oval Office or on the campaign trail.
Bannon’s recalcitrance in responding to Congressional questioning resulted in the committee immediately slapping the man Trump has been calling “Sloppy Steve” with a subpoena to force his testimony. It appears, however, that even in his evasiveness Bannon may have inadvertently revealed some previously undisclosed details related to Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting with Russian agents in Trump Tower, the meeting that Bannon called “treasonous” in Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury book, comments that eventually led to Bannon’s ouster from Breitbart News.
According to Axios, four different sources with direct knowledge of the committee hearing told them that:
“Bannon admitted that he’d had conversations with Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer and legal spokesman Mark Corallo about Don Junior’s infamous meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower in June 2016.”
Since these conversations took place while Bannon was still chief strategist at the White House and concerns a meeting being heavily vetted by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, the comments surely violate Trump’s ban on his former advisor discussing his executive branch activities. The remarks also give Mueller a fruitful avenue to pursue when he calls Bannon in front of the Grand Jury with the subpoena he issued to the ex-Breitbart head yesterday as well.
In a remarkable display of bi-partisanship on a committee that has been plagued by infighting and diametrically opposed agendas, both Republicans and Democrats slammed Bannon for revealing the conversations and then refusing to answer any other questions about them.
Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was particularly relentless in his questioning of the former White House official. Enquiring about his description of the Trump Tower meeting as treasonous, Gowdy asked Bannon whether he would consider asking Julian Assange of WikiLeaks for help in gathering opposition research on Hillary Clinton a treasonous act, and then showed the disheveled alt-right mouthpiece emails from an employee of Cambridge Analytica, the campaign research firm closely associated with Bannon and his former patrons the Mercer family, boasting of doing just that. Bannon disavowed knowledge of the emails.
Now that he is facing subpoenas from both Congress and Mueller, Bannon won’t be able to avoid answering questions much longer, but the Trump administration efforts to hide behind executive privilege mean that they will not be going down without a gargantuan struggle.