Executive privilege starts at birth

Meanwhile in areas a little bit away from gunshots, Steve Bannon is trying to convince the House Intelligence committee that “executive privilege” extends retroactively, as if Trump were surrounded by a penumbra of executivityhood for months or years or even decades before he actually took office, and thus that anyone he plotted with at any point within that penumbra had a privilege of not saying anything to pesky House committees no matter how hard they asked.

House Republican leaders are weighing “further steps” to force former top White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon to answer investigators’ questions in their probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — including potentially declaring him in contempt of Congress — after a Thursday interview they called “frustrating.”

Bannon came to speak with the House Intelligence Committee under a subpoena the panel issued on the spot last month, when he refused to answer questions related to the transition period and his tenure in the White House. On Thursday, Bannon presented panel members with a list of 25 questions that he would be willing to answer from that time period. But according to the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the questions had all been “literally scripted” by the White House, and his answer to all of them was “no.”

He’s there under a subpoena but he thinks he gets to tell them what questions he will and won’t answer. He must think Trump is a monarch, and an absolute one at that.

When the committee tried to push Bannon to answer questions that were not on his list, he repeatedly told members that the White House had not authorized him to engage on those queries.

Neither did the pope, I daresay; so what?

Bannon’s return to the committee was scheduled and delayed three times while the White House hammered out the terms of the interview with the House counsel. On Wednesday night, the White House sent the committee a letter outlining its argument for why executive privilege could apply to the transition period, according to panel members. But lawmakers said that letter was not a formal invocation of executive privilege, and they continue to reject the premise that privilege can apply to the transition period, when Trump was not in the Oval Office.

One would hope so. He wasn’t the executive then, so what privilege would he expect to have?

Panel members on both sides of the aisle also stressed that Bannon could not cite nonexistent privilege as an excuse to avoid their questions.

“That’s not how privilege works,” Schiff said. “That’s how stonewalling works.”

One would hope so, but these crooks will try anything.

The House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe has long been plagued by partisan divisions. But Bannon’s fight with the panel has drawn Democrats and Republicans together in a rare common cause, as they seek to make sure the White House’s efforts to protect Bannon do not erode the power of a congressional subpoena — something that could have “deep implications for any investigation Congress may conduct in the future,” Schiff said.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) led the panel last month in pushing Bannon to answer all of its questions and ultimately deciding to issue him a subpoena. Now several Republicans say that holding Bannon in contempt, if he does not cooperate with their interview, will be necessary to send a message to this and future administrations that they cannot blithely ignore congressional subpoenas and other oversight.

They’ve been wannabe authoritarians all along.

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