Trump considers waiving claim of executive privilege for Steve Bannon

Former President Donald Trump is considering sending a letter to Stephen K. Bannon saying that he is waiving his claim of executive privilege, potentially clearing the way for his former chief strategist to testify before the House select committee investigating the pro-Trump riot at the Capitol.

The letter would reiterate that Trump invoked executive privilege in September 2021, when Bannon was first subpoenaed by the House committee. But it would say that the former president is now willing to give up that claim — the validity of which has been disputed — if Bannon can reach an agreement on the terms of an appearance before the panel. The letter was described by three people familiar with it, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

Some advisers were seeking to talk Trump out of signing the letter.

Bannon was charged with contempt of Congress in November 2021 for refusing to comply with the subpoena. A trial on those charges is scheduled to begin July 18, though Bannon has sought to delay the proceedings.

The committee has argued that claims of executive privilege are not valid for Bannon, who was a private citizen at the time of Jan. 6, 2021. The committee has also said that Bannon, an outspoken advocate of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, was required to respond to the subpoena in some way — citing claims of privilege on a question-by-question basis instead of by refusing to respond.

“Even if your client had been a senior aide to the President during the time period covered by the contemplated testimony, which he was most assuredly not, he is not permitted by law to the type of immunity you suggest that Mr. Trump has requested he assert,” Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) wrote to Bannon’s attorney in October.

The government has declined to bring contempt charges against other former Trump aides who have also cited executive privilege, including former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former adviser Dan Scavino.

An attorney for Bannon and a spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since the bombshell testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Meadows, several Republicans have come forward to cooperate with the House select committee and more are expected to continue coming forward, according to people familiar with the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

The live and videotaped testimony featured in the committee’s case against Trump has so far painted a detailed picture of the former president’s efforts to hold on to power at all costs. These public hearings could now continue into August and beyond as investigators accumulate more evidence and new witness testimony, the people familiar with the investigation added.

On Friday, former White House counsel Pat Cipollone appeared for an eight-hour, closed-door, transcribed interview with investigators to discuss his role in trying to prevent Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Cipollone may have provided the committee with answers to crucial questions that could corroborate previous testimony or provide new evidence about what he may have witnessed in the White House in the lead-up to Jan. 6 and on the day of the attack.

“Mr. Cipollone did appear voluntarily and answered a whole variety of questions,” said committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). “He did not contradict the testimony of other witnesses and I think we did learn a few things which we will be rolling out in the hearings to come. It was a grueling day for all involved. … But it was well worth it.”

Lofgren described Cipollone as “careful” and “candid” in his testimony, adding that new information and “additional insight into the actual day” of Jan. 6 was gleaned.

Hutchinson’s testimony identified Cipollone as a key witness to potential criminal activity in the Trump White House.

Hutchinson testified that, on the morning of Jan. 6, Cipollone came forward with an urgent request, saying “something to the effect of: ‘Please make sure we don’t go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We’re going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.’”

She also testified that when the violence broke out at the Capitol, Cipollone demanded that he and Meadows speak with Trump to intervene and try to stop the violence. When Meadows told Cipollone that Trump did not want to take any action, Cipollone replied that “something needs to be done, or people are going to die, the blood’s going to be on your f-ing hands,” according to Hutchinson’s retelling of the interaction.

Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right militia group the Oathkeepers, made an offer to the House committee on Friday to appear before the committee, his attorney Lee Bright confirmed.

The committee has not responded to the offer. Rhodes requested his testimony be conducted under certain conditions: an open forum, taped from a venue other than the jail where he is currently in custody, and unedited. Bright said his client is willing to talk about Oath Keeper activities during the last election and on Jan. 6, 2021.

Isaac Arnsdorf and Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

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