Former President Donald Trump never invoked executive privilege to prevent Steve Bannon from testifying before the House select committee investigating last year’s Capitol riot, despite the ex-White House strategist claiming otherwise for months, federal prosecutors claimed Monday.
In a court filing ahead of Bannon’s trial on two counts of contempt of Congress, US Attorney Amanda Vaughn revealed that Trump attorney Justin Clark told the FBI in a June 29 interview that “the former president never invoked executive privilege over any particular information or materials” in regard to Bannon.
Clark also said that Bannon’s legal team “misrepresented to the Committee what the former President’s counsel had told the Defendant’s [Bannon’s] attorney; and that the former President’s counsel made clear to the Defendant’s attorney that the letter provided no basis for total noncompliance.”
The revelation comes two days after Bannon’s lawyer claimed Trump had “waived” the claim of executive privilege, allowing Bannon to appear before the panel.
Bannon was indicted in November after ignoring a subpoena from the committee to provide documents and testimony about his potential role in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters broke into the Capitol and disrupted the certification of President Biden’s 2020 Electoral College victory.
At the time, Bannon claimed that conversations between him and the 45th president were protected by executive privilege, which insists on certain discussions between the president and key aides remaining confidential and out of the reach of congressional investigation.
In Monday’s five-page filing, Vaughn argued that Bannon’s “sudden wish to testify is not a genuine effort to meet his obligations but a last-ditch attempt to avoid accountability,” and called for any evidence stemming from his effort to be excluded from his trial, which begins July 18.
“The criminal contempt statute is not intended to procure compliance; it is intended to punish past noncompliance,” she wrote. “The Defendant’s purported desire to testify now does not erase his past contempt.”
Vaughn added that while Bannon may have expressed a wish to testify, “apparently has not told the Committee he wishes to provide documents responsive to the subpoena”.
“Second,” the prosecutor went on, “the Defendant’s timing suggests that the only thing that has really changed since he refused to comply with the subpoena in October 2021 is that he is finally about to face the consequences of his decision to default.”
The Jan. 6 committee has long rejected Bannon’s attempts to claim executive privilege, since he was a private citizen at the time of the riot, having been fired from his official White House role in August 2017.
The committee is scheduled to hold its next hearing on Tuesday at 1 p.m.
Commmittee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday that the hearing will focus on the plotting and planning of the attack by white nationalist groups while also highlighting Friday testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone.
Another hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Thursday night.