Trump ally Steve Bannon backtracks, now says he’s ready to testify ahead of Jan. 6 panel

Steve Bannon, a former White House strategist and ally of former US President Donald Trump who faces criminal charges after months of defying a congressional subpoena over the Capitol riot, told the committee of the House investigating the attack that he was now ready to testify.

Bannon’s reversal was conveyed in a letter from his attorney on Saturday, lawmakers said, as the committee prepares to release some of its most stark revelations this week against Trump in what could be its final round of hearings. .

“I expect we will hear from him and we have many questions for him,” said Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California. She and other committee members said in televised interviews Sunday that they intended to ask Bannon to sit down for a private interview, which they typically conduct in a sworn deposition.

Bannon had been one of Trump’s most prominent allies in refusing to testify before the committee, which led to two counts of contempt of Congress last year for resisting the committee’s subpoena. . He argued that his testimony is protected by Trump’s claim of executive privilege. The committee argues that such a claim is dubious because Trump had fired Bannon from the White House in 2017 and Bannon was therefore a private citizen when he consulted with the then president on the eve of the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.

Yet in recent days, as the former president grew frustrated with what he decried as the committee’s one-sided presentation of seven Democrats and two Republicans, Trump said he would waive that claim of privilege, according to a letter. sent Saturday to Bannon’s attorney.

Bannon is seen with then-President Donald Trump at the White House in January 2017. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

“If you come to an agreement on a time and place for your testimony, I will waive executive privilege for you, which allows you to come in and testify honestly and fairly, as requested by the unelected committee of thugs and political hacks,” Trump wrote.

Thursday night’s committee hearing will consider the more than three-hour stretch when Trump failed to act as a crowd of supporters stormed the Capitol. It will be the first prime-time audience since the June 9 debut that has been seen by 20 million people.

A hearing on Tuesday will focus on conspiracy and planning for the insurrection by white nationalist groups such as the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, and will also highlight testimony taken Friday by the former attorney for the White House, Pat Cipollone.

It comes after surprise testimony last month from former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson provided the most compelling evidence yet that Trump could be linked to a federal crime. Since then, the committee has seen an influx of new information and confidential advice.

Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland suggested that Bannon “had a change of heart, and after seeing, presumably, all of these people coming forward, including Cassidy Hutchinson, he decided he wanted in, and if he wants come in, I’m sure the committee would be very interested in hearing it.”

WATCH | The explosive testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson:

Trump was determined to join Jan. 6 crowd, says former White House aide

A late-breaking committee hearing on January 6 saw dramatic and damning testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said then-President Donald Trump was determined to join the crowd, dismissed the presence of armed rioters and ordered the removal of metal detectors.

Bannon’s trial on both counts is July 18. A hearing in his case was scheduled for Monday in federal court in Washington. Bannon asked for a postponement of his trial to at least fall.

It is unclear to what extent Bannon intends to cooperate. He expressed his preference to appear before the committee in a public hearing. The committee specifies that he must first sit down for a private interview, usually in the context of a sworn deposition. It’s also possible that he chooses to appear and then refuses to answer questions, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

“The way we treated every witness is the same, whether they come in, whether they talk to the committee there,” Raskin said. “If they’re going to take a deposition, they’re sworn. It’s videotaped. It’s recorded, and then we take it from there.”

The committee says it wants to hear from Bannon because he “had precise knowledge of the events scheduled for January 6 before they occurred.” He cited as an example the comments he made on his podcast the day before the riot.

“It’s not going to go the way you think. OK, it’s going to be pretty extraordinarily different. All I can say is tie up,” Bannon said in this podcast. “Hell is going to break loose tomorrow. … So many people said, ‘Man, if I was in a revolution, I’d be in Washington. Well, this is your moment in history.”

Denise W. Whigham