Months after he was charged with contempt of Congress for stonewalling the Jan. 6 Select Committee, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon appears to have reversed course by telling the panel that he is “willing” to testify publicly after receiving a letter from former President Trump waiving executive privilege, according to CNN and NBC News.
In his letter to Bannon on Saturday, Trump reportedly said that his former aide had been treated “unfairly” and had no choice but to “spend vast amounts of money on legal fees.” The former president then outlined his conditions for waiving claims of executive privilege — which Bannon previously argued was his rationale for defying his congressional subpoena, despite having departed the Trump White House years before the deadly Capitol insurrection.
“Therefore, if you reach an agreement on a time and place for your testimony, I will waive Executive Privilege for you, which allows you to go in and testify truthfully and fairly” Trump wrote to Bannon, according to letters obtained by CNN.
On Saturday night, Bannon’s lawyer Robert Costello reportedly sent a separate letter to the committee that stated his client’s “circumstances have now changed” following Trump’s letter.
“Trump has decided that it would be in the best interests of the American people to waive executive privilege for Stephen K. Bannon, to allow Mr. Bannon to comply with the subpoena issued by your Committee. Mr. Bannon is willing to, and indeed prefers, to testify at your public hearing,” Costello wrote to the committee, NBC News reported.
Costello’s letter did not indicate whether Bannon would comply with the document portion of his subpoena. But in an email to Politico on Sunday, Costello said Bannon intends to provide documents subpoenaed by the committee as part of any arrangement.
Members of the Jan. 6 Select Committee, Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD), poured cold water on Bannon’s request for public testimony when asked about it during interviews on Sunday.
Lofgren told CNN the committee hasn’t had a chance to discuss Bannon’s letter, but that she expects the panel to hear from him because “there are many questions that we have.”
Lofgren shot down the possibility of public testimony from Bannon, noting that the panel typically conducts depositions.
“This goes on for hour after hour after hour,” Lofgren said. “We want to get all our questions answered. And you can’t do that in a live format.”
Raskin similarly told CBS News that he is “certain” the committee is interested in hearing from Bannon while emphasizing that he would get the same treatment as other witnesses.
“The way that we have treated every single witness is the same, that they come in, they talk to the committee there,” Raskin said. “If they’re going to take a deposition, they’re sworn under oath. It’s videotaped. It’s recorded, and then we take it from there.”
Bannon was charged with two counts of contempt of Congress last year for refusing to comply with the committee’s subpoena. He pleaded not guilty.
Bannon’s apparent willingness to testify publicly before the committee comes as jury selection in his contempt of Congress trial is scheduled to begin later this month.
Late last month, Bannon’s attorney’s requested that his criminal trial be delayed until at least October, arguing that the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s public hearings would make it impossible for their client to have a fair trial with an impartial jury.
“Select Committee members have made inflammatory remarks about the culpability of President Trump and his closest advisers, including Mr. Bannon, and have broadcast to millions of people their purported ‘findings’ on issues that may prejudice the minds of jurors in this case,” Bannon attorneys Evan Corcoran, David Schoen and Costello wrote.
“Those broadcasts have been repackaged and re-broadcast in countless forms, creating a saturation of the information sources available to Washington, D.C. residents. Under the circumstances, a continuance is warranted — to allow the effects of the Select Committee hearing coverage a chance to subside,” Bannon’s attorneys continued.
The filing cited references to Bannon during a hearing late last month that featured testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. During the hearing, the panel drew attention to Bannon’s meeting on Jan. 5, 2021 with advisers to then-President Trump at the Willard Hotel, which served as a “war room” in their efforts to subvert the results of the 2020 election.
The Justice Department called on a D.C. judge to reject Bannon’s request for a delay in a filing earlier this month. DOJ lawyers wrote that Bannon has “barely been mentioned” in the committee’s hearings.
“The Defendant’s motion gives the false impression — through general statistics about the volume of viewership of the Committee’s hearings and overall media coverage of the Committee’s hearings — that all of the Committee’s hearings and the attendant media coverage is about him,” DOJ lawyers wrote in the filing. “The truth is just the opposite — the Defendant has barely been mentioned in the Committee’s hearings or the resulting media coverage of them.”
The DOJ’s filing follows an effort by Bannon last month to fight the contempt charges he’s facing by issuing subpoenas to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and members of the committee. Bannon’s legal team were reportedly seeking to challenge the legitimacy of the committee and the panel’s motives for targeting him.