WASHINGTON – A lawyer for Stephen K. Bannon, the former chief strategist of President Donald J. Trump, told the House special committee investigating the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill on Thursday that he was not would not comply with a subpoena, raising the prospect of a battle for crucial evidence in the investigation.
In a letter to the panel, Robert Costello, Mr Bannon’s attorney, said that an attorney for Mr Trump had asked some of the assistants and advisers facing subpoenas to invoke immunity and refrain from handing over documents that could be protected by executive privilege.
“So it’s clear to us that since the executive privileges belong to President Trump, and he has, through his board, announced his intention to assert the executive privileges listed above., we must accept his leadership and honor his invocation of executive privilege, ”Costello wrote. “As such, until these issues are resolved, we are unable to accommodate your request for documents and testimony.”
Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the select committee, threatened witnesses who fail to comply with subpoenas with criminal referrals, and said the panel expected witnesses “to cooperate fully with our investigation”.
In its first batch of summons, the House committee ordered four former Trump administration officials – Mr. Bannon; Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Dan Scavino Jr., a deputy chief of staff, and Kash Patel, a Pentagon chief of staff – to sit for depositions and provide documents and other materials relevant to his investigation.
In a letter reviewed by the New York Times, Mr. Trump’s attorney asked that witnesses not provide any testimony or documents related to their “official” duties, and instead invoke any immunities they might. have “to the fullest extent permitted by law”.
While Mr Bannon worked in the White House in 2017, he left in August of the same year and was not an employee of the executive until or on January 6, raising the question of whether executive privilege – which may protect White House proceedings or documents implicating the president from disclosure – would apply to his interactions with Mr. Trump.
In the letter, Mr. Costello said his client would “abide by the directions of the courts,” but that at this time, “Mr. Bannon is legally unable to comply with your requests for subpoena for documents and testimonials.
It was not clear whether Mr. Bannon intended to go to court. But the rejection of the subpoena was almost certain to slow down the work of the committee, which Mr Trump attacked as illegitimate.