Congress May Hold Steve Bannon in Contempt

He again refused to answer key questions in the House intelligence committee’s Russia investigation.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The House intelligence committee is considering a vote to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, after the former chief White House strategist refused to answer key questions when he appeared before the panel on Thursday in connection with its ongoing Russia investigation. 

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the committee, said Bannon asserted a broad claim of executive privilege to decline questions on a wide range of matters. According to Schiff, Bannon was only willing to answer 25 questions that were scripted by the White House in advance of his testimony.

Last month, the committee subpoenaed Bannon after he refused to answer questions about his time in the White House and on the Trump transition team. During the January 16 interview, Bannon’s lawyer was reportedly in communication with the White House concerning the questions Bannon could respond to.

Bannon’s stonewalling on Thursday again irked committee members of both parties. Bannon “has done the impossible and brought our committee together,” Schiff said. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), a top Republican on the panel, said he will meet with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to discuss holding Bannon in contempt.

“He did not answer all the questions we’d like answered,” said Conaway, who called the meeting “frustrating.”

Part of the committee’s gripe is their belief that Bannon has been more cooperative with special counsel Robert Mueller, who holds a more robust power to enforce subpoenas through the threat of criminal charges. NBC reported that Bannon met with Mueller’s team for over 20 hours over a couple days earlier this week. (Bannon’s lawyer, William Burck, did not respond to questions about Bannon’s meetings with the special counsel or the House committee.) 

Burck, who was present for Thursday’s meeting, also represents White House counsel Don McGahn and former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Schiff said that Burck’s dual-role shows that Bannon’s refusal to answer questions is part of “a coordinated White House strategy to stonewall this committee.” 

The committee could vote on holding Bannon in contempt as early as Monday.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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