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Bannon in Washington for closed-door interview in Russia probe

Bannon in Washington for closed-door interview in Russia probe

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 Russian Federation investigation. On Thursday, Bannon presented panel members with a list of 25 questions that he would be willing to answer from that time period.

After Bannon's roughly three-hour interview on Capitol Hill, Republicans on the House intelligence panel were weighing whether to hold him in contempt. He said he believed Bannon should answer the committee's questions, but "contempt is a big deal and I don't have unilateral control over that conversation", he said.

As late as December of past year, Bannon reportedly bragged to some associates that he had not hired a lawyer and was unworried about his potential legal exposure in the multiple investigations being conducted into connections between Russian Federation and members of President Trump's campaign.

However, the White House sent the committee a letter late Wednesday night arguing that Trump's transition period does fall under the administration's authority to assert executive privilege.

Schiff said accepting the White House's "stonewalling" of Congress would have "deep implications" for future congressional investigations.

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"That's not how privilege works", Schiff said.

While Conaway did not rule out holding Bannon in contempt, he made clear the decision was not entirely in his hands.

"I'm not a lawyer - so privileges were invoked, we have to have some discussion as to whether or not those are appropriate and would in effect shield him from having to answer our questions, and that's an ongoing conversation we'll have among an terrible lot of lawyers", Conaway said.

Mr Bannon - who was forced out of the White House in August - appeared following a subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee.

While the exact questions for Bannon are unknown, Mueller is investigating whether there was any coordination between Trump's campaign and Russians who meddled in the 2016 election, and also whether there have been any efforts to obstruct the ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into those contacts.

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The White House sent a letter to Capitol Hill late Wednesday laying out its explanation for why Trump's transition period falls under its authority to assert executive privilege, a move meant to shield Bannon from answering questions about that time period, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

The escalating fight between Congress and the White House over the privilege issue has centered around Bannon, an outsized figure in President Donald Trump's campaign and White House and an inspiration to some conservatives as he has publicly battled the Republican establishment. At no point, people familiar with the interview said, did Bannon voluntarily elaborate on his answers. "For not just our committee, but every committee?"

"When we asked the question, 'Did you talk with x, ' the answer was 'yes.' When we asked, 'What did they discuss?' there was the invocation of privilege", Schiff said. Republicans and Democrats subpoenaed him after he similarly refused to answer some questions in a January interview.

Negotiations between the House and White House have been ongoing since Bannon's first interview, and several interviews have been scheduled and postponed in recent weeks. The Senate panel hasn't yet spoken to Bannon, according to a source familiar with the probe.

When asked whether he will discuss his time serving on the transition during Thursday's meeting, Bannon reportedly told reporters as he walked in: "Good morning folks". The person declined to be named because the interview schedule isn't public.

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