WASHINGTON — Former White House strategist Stephen Bannon has notified the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that he cannot comply with the panel’s sweeping request for documents and testimony, according to a letter Bannon’s attorney sent to the committee.
The letter from his attorney, Robert Costello, notes that former President Donald Trump’s attorney recently asked Bannon to defy the lawmakers’ request for documents or information, citing executive privilege, the doctrine cited by presidents to protect access to notes and communications related to holding the office of the president.
“It is therefore clear to us that since the executive privileges belong to President Trump and he has, through his counsel, announced his intention to assert those privileges … we must accept his direction and honor his invocation of executive privilege,” Costello wrote Thursday, the deadline for responding to subpoena requests.
The committee had also requested documents and interview from other prominent Trump administration officials, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel, who later went to work at the Pentagon.
The response from Bannon — and the other former Trump officials — is likely to set off a battle in the courts over congressional subpoena power in the face of objections from a former president.
Already, members of the Jan. 6 committee are urging a tough response to those refusing to cooperate with the inquiry.
“This is a matter of the utmost seriousness and we need to consider the full panoply of enforcement sanctions available to us,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law professor who sits on the Select Committee. “And that means criminal contempt citations, civil contempt citations and the use of Congress’s own inherent contempt powers.”
Trump’s legal team argued in a letter sent to the four former officials earlier this week that records and testimony related to Jan. 6 are protected “from disclosure by the executive and other privileges, including among others the presidential communications, deliberative process, and attorney-client privileges.” The letter was first reported by Politico.
Costello’s letter notes that Bannon will comply with any court decisions that resolve disputed claims about executive privilege or attorney client privilege.
In refusing to immediately comply with the committee’s request, Costello cited a letter he received from Trump’s attorney, Justin Clark. The bipartisan panel is investigating the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob trying to stop the certification of Biden’s electoral college win, an attack that resulted in five deaths and left 140 law enforcement officers injured.
Trump has been critical of the House committee’s Jan. 6 investigation.
Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich said in a statement that the “outrageously broad records request … lacks both legal precedent and legislative merit.”
“Executive privilege will be defended, not just on behalf of President Trump and his administration, but also on behalf of the Office of the President of the United States and the future of our nation,” Budowich added.
It was not clear midday Friday whether Scavino, Patel and Meadows will cooperate with the committee. Most did not respond to requests for comment on their plans. In a statement provided to The Post on Thursday, Patel suggested that he may not cooperate, referencing his website where he’s trying to raise $250,000 “to fund a top-notch legal team.”