Bannon won’t testify before US intel panel on Wednesday

FILE PHOTO: White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon (L) attends a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and congressional leaders to discuss trade deals at the at the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

WASHINGTON: Former White House strategist Steve Bannon’s return to the US House Intelligence Committee will not take place on Wednesday as expected, Representative Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat said on Tuesday.

Bannon had been expected to speak to the House of Representatives committee again on Wednesday as part of an investigation of allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 US election, to follow up on his Jan 16 appearance, which failed to satisfy some members of the panel.

Moscow denies election meddling, and President Donald Trump has denied any collusion between his associates and Russia.

A source familiar with the issue said Bannon’s appearance was cancelled because the White House and the committee had yet to agree on matters of executive privilege, by which the president can resist congressional requests for information if he deems it in the public interest.

Asked for comment, Schiff told Reuters there could have been many reasons. A spokesman for the committee’s Republican chairman, Representative Devin Nunes, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Against the wishes of Democrats, the Republican majority on the intelligence committee has been pushing for the release of a classified memo commissioned by Nunes that alleged surveillance abuse by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice. The committee voted along party lines to release the memo on Monday, leaving it to Trump to decide.

Democrats have criticised the memo as partisan talking points intended to cast doubt on the investigation.

The House intelligence panel is one of three congressional committees, along with Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller, investigating the matter.

During his Jan 16 appearance, Bannon refused to answer questions about his time in Trump’s administration or the post-election presidential transition, committee members said.

The White House and the House committee have so far not even begun to discuss the executive privilege issue, the source said. Bannon also has not received documents to review from the White House or Trump’s presidential transition office, the source said.

White House communications director Hope Hicks, who also has been asked to appear before House Intelligence, is dealing with similar executive privilege issues, according to another person familiar with the matter.