WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former White House strategist Steve Bannon was expected to return on Thursday to testify before the House of Representatives’ intelligence committee, two days after refusing to answer questions about his time with the Trump administration or the transition period leading to it.
“He’s supposed to come back. Whether he will or not I can’t say,” Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the panel, said in an interview with CNN.
“This broad declaration that ‘I won’t answer questions’ – not just about the transition but anything that happened after the campaign including up to the present date – is unsustainable,” Schiff said.
Bannon, a far-right, self-described nationalist, directed the final stage of President Donald Trump’s campaign and was a key presidential adviser until being fired in August.
The rift between Bannon and Trump widened this month with the release of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” a book that was highly critical of Trump and used Bannon as a prominent source.
Bannon appeared before the House committee investigating Russian meddling in the election on Tuesday but refused to answer questions after his lawyer conferred with the White House and was told again to refuse to answer questions about the transition period immediately after Trump was elected or Bannon’s time in the administration, Schiff said.
A lawyer for Bannon, William Burck, was not immediately available for comment.
Bannon also struck a deal to be interviewed by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which also is investigating Russian meddling, rather than appearing before a grand jury, CNN reported on Wednesday. The New York Times had reported that he was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.
Both the House committee and the special counsel are investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Before joining the Trump campaign in 2016, Bannon had been executive chairman of the right-wing news source Breitbart News. He returned there after his dismissal from the White House but stepped down amid the book controversy.
(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Bill Trott)