Questions swirl over whether House Intel will enforce Bannon subpoena

Questions swirl over whether House Intel will enforce Bannon subpoena
© Greg Nash

As the House Intelligence Committee prepares to interview former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon on Thursday, many are questioning what the committee will do if he refuses to testify again even with the panel's subpoena compelling him to reappear.

Bannon was subpoenaed by the committee in January after he declined to answer investigators’ questions in their probe into Russian interference in the presidential election. He is expected to appear before the committee Thursday, according to two Democratic lawmakers on the committee.

 
"We expect him to come under the subpoena, yes," Conaway, the top Republican leading the investigation, said Tuesday
 
But a handful of Democrats on the committee seemed less sure Bannon would comply with the subpoena.
 

"If subpoenas mean anything they will do something about it," Swalwell added, referring to the majority. 

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Bannon's refusal to answer questions in January — citing executive privilege — ignited the fury of both committee Democrats and Republicans. The committee swiftly issued a subpoena in order to compel Bannon to talk about his involvement with Trump after the election, a rare moment of unity among the committee that has seen deteriorating bipartisanship. 
 
Late Wednesday night, the White House sent the committee a letter arguing that Trump's transition period falls under its authority to assert executive privilege, a person familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill Thursday morning. CNN first reported the claims described in the letter. 
 
The argument is a White House strategy aimed at protecting Bannon from talking about the transition, the source told the news outlet.
 
The committee could enforce the subpoena by voting to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress, but has yet to do so despite Bannon previously postponing his appearance before the committee three times. 

Democrats are now wondering how many times Bannon will be allowed to reschedule before the committee takes action.

 
 
While Republicans have not stated whether or not they will move to enforce the subpoena, lawmakers on both sides agree that not holding Bannon accountable if he refuses to appear would weaken congressional subpoena powers.
 
"If you don’t, what kind of precedent is that sending? For not just our committee, but every committee. They don’t mean anything, just a hollow threat. We can’t do that," Rooney said Tuesday.
 
Rooney signaled that giving Bannon a citation is a possible course of action. 

"I think that he realizes that contempt of Congress moved by us is certainly not something he or anybody would want and I think that there would be support to do that if he doesn’t adhere to the subpoena," Rooney added.

Conaway declined to "speculate" what their next steps will be. 

Bannon joined the Trump campaign in August of 2016 and continued to serve Trump through the transition as well as the White House until August.

He reportedly played a role in the decision to fire former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators as part of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's ongoing Russia probe.

Bannon's initial interview with the committee came shortly after a public fallout with the president.

Bannon faced a torrent of the president's fury after Michael Wolff's White House tell-all quoted him as attacking the president's children among other scathing remarks about the administration.

- Updated: Thursday, 10:08 a.m.