Steve Bannon refuses to answer questions from House Intelligence Committee, members say

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Steve Bannon, the combative former chief strategist for President Donald Trump, was interrogated for 20 hours over two days this week as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation, according to a person familiar with the process.

Separately, three sources familiar with the proceedings said Bannon was interviewed over two days this week by Mueller's team, which had subpoenaed him to appear before a grand jury before he agreed to be interviewed.

In an explosive book published last month, Bannon blasted the campaign's handling of Russian Federation and suggested the Mueller investigation will focus on money laundering.

While the exact questions for Bannon are unknown, Mueller is investigating whether there was any coordination between Trump's campaign and Russians who meddled in the 2016 election, and also whether there have been any efforts to obstruct the ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation probe into those contacts.

US President Donald Trump fired former chief strategist Steve Bannon last year
EVAN VUCCI AP US President Donald Trump fired former chief strategist Steve Bannon last year

"The only questions he would answer were questions that had been scripted, literally scripted for him by the White House", NBC News quoted the committee's ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as saying Thursday.

"That is not how privilege works; that's how stonewalling works", Schiff said.

At one point, Schiff fumed, Bannon refused to discuss conversations he had after leaving the White House with "people who played no role in the administration". The others include White House communications director Hope Hicks as well as Corey Lewandowski, the President's former campaign manager, who told the panel in his testimony last month that he wasn't prepared to answer questions about matters after he was dismissed from the campaign in June 2016.

This was the second time Bannon appeared before the committee. He said Bannon was given an opportunity to provide a reason why he should not be held in contempt but declined to do so. Walking past the cameras, Bannon declined to say whether he would answer all of the committee's questions.

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One said he had answered a range of questions, unlike his refusal to do so before the House intelligence panel.

Bannon has been reluctant to speak with the Intelligence Committee, however, he has reportedly told associates that he planned to answer all of Mueller's questions. "A set of 25 questions that had been written out for him to which the answer to each must be 'no, '" said Rep.

USA intelligence agencies determined more than a year ago that Moscow sought to interfere in the campaign.

Reuters reported last week that Bannon was expected to meet with Mueller this week. "When we asked the question, "Did you talk with X", the answer was 'yes"; when we asked, 'What did they discuss?', there was the invocation of privilege".

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He said Bannon did not make a case against being held in contempt to the committee, an opportunity provided to him under House rules.

But Democrats charge that Conaway and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California, haven't shown a willingness yet to hold Bannon accountable for flouting Congress if he ignores the subpoena.

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