Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon arrived for his second interview before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday after a fierce weeks-long struggle over whether the meeting would take place and what questions would be allowed.
The committee subpoenaed Bannon after he declined to answer lawmakers' questions during a closed-door interview in January. The panel wanted to question Bannon as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Lawmakers on Thursday morning continued to question whether the former Breitbart news mogul would appear on Capitol Hill as the minutes ticked closer to his expected arrival time, with some speculating he would ignore the subpoena.
Rep. Chris StewartChris StewartMan punched, kicked by officers settles with Georgia county Overnight Defense & National Security — Washington gathers for Colin Powell's funeral House Republican says as much as 40 percent of some intel agencies remain unvaccinated MORE (R-Utah) told The Hill that Bannon limited the scope of the investigation to "a few more than" two dozen questions.
“Well a few more than that but yeah pretty much limited to that,” he told The Hill shortly after the interview got underway.
"The hearings just started so let’s wait and see how it goes, because maybe we will get a bit more. Because we haven’t had a chance to ask any of our questions, it’s only been the Democrats and we may get more information as it goes," he added.
When asked whether there are limitations on the questions Bannon's list of acceptable questions, he said they were mostly just yes and no.
"I mean, technically it is probably limited to yes and no. It is part of our discussion but I am not sure. But again, we are just getting started so let’s wait and see," he added.
A source familiar with the interview told The Hill that the committee is still trying to figure out whether he has official executive privilege to make such assertions.
"I don’t know yet. I can’t figure it out. I think we are all confused," the source said.
"That is why we want to go down there and press him because I don’t think the word executive privilege has actually been a response but it is really close and it is confusing. And if you are not claiming executive privilege, on what basis are you not answering these questions?"
Throughout the week, questions swirled over whether Republicans on the committee would move to enforce the subpoena against Bannon if he refused to return.
The first step would be for the majority to call a vote to decide whether to hold him in contempt of Congress.
During Bannon's initial appearance, he sparked the fury of both committee Democrats and Republicans by citing executive privilege on any questions related to events that happened after the presidential campaign. Members from both sides argued that he had no grounds to assert such a claim.
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. CNN first reported the claims described in the letter and The Hill confirmed it on Thursday morning.
When Bannon walked into the secure committee space, it remained unclear what the scope of his interview would be for this second round.
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. It’s a fine Navy day!”
Bannon's initial interview came shortly after public fallout with the president over Michael Wolff's White House tell-all was published. The book "Fire and Fury" included quotes from Bannon attacking the president's children among other scathing remarks about the administration.
Updated at 12:47 p.m.