Steve Bannon is trying to keep at least one conversation with Donald Trump shielded from the House select committee.
The one-time White House strategist wants to claim executive privilege to avoid testifying before the panel that's investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, and his attorney David Schoen referred twice to the conversation as he tries to avoid prosecution for contempt of Congress, reported The Daily Beast.
“He’s a former senior adviser who the president then calls in,” Schoen said in court Wednesday.
Bannon's attorneys are arguing that executive privilege extends to former presidents, and they're arguing that his interactions with then-president Trump should also be privileged even though he did not serve in the government at that point.
Federal prosecutor Amanda Vaughn accused Bannon's attorneys of "cherry-picking" from portions of Justice Department memos on executive privilege in an effort to get a “free pass to commit crime," and she said the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel had never issued any opinion that would allow him to refuse to turn over documents of his communications with the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers or members of Congress on Jan. 5, 2021.
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack subpoenaed Bannon, 67, on September 23, 2021. He was among the first of dozens of people who have been called to testify on the violent attack that shut down Congress as it convened to certify Joe Biden's election win over Trump two months earlier.
The committee said it has reason to believe Bannon has "information relevant to understand important activities that led to and informed the events at the Capitol" and pointed to his presence at activities focused on blocking Congress's certification session the day before, when he said: "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow."
After Trump claimed executive privilege to block aides from testifying and to prevent the committee from accessing documents from his administration, Bannon said he would not testify until questions over privilege had been resolved.
The House then voted to refer contempt of Congress charges to the Justice Department. Each count carries a penalty of one month to one year in jail.
With additional reporting by AFP