Bannon lawyer was on telephone with White Home throughout Home grilling

Trump attends the G7 summit in Taormina Sicily | Pool

He appeared before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday but declined to answer questions on a range of topics about his time in the White House citing "executive privilege" - the legally contentious idea that conversations with the president are protected. Sources "familiar with the closed-door session" tell the AP that Bannon's lawyer, Bill Burck, was on the phone with someone at the White House counsel's office during Bannon's interview. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIntel Dem decries White House "gag order" after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mueller has subpoenaed Bannon in Russian Federation probe: report MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, that the White House imposed a "gag order" on Bannon during his testimony before the panel this week.

Bannon is the highest-ranking person from the Trump White House called to testify before a federal grand jury as part of the special counsel's investigation into whether Russian Federation colluded with Trump officials prior to the 2016 election.

Bannon had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Mueller's probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 United States presidential election and any ties with President Donald Trump's campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Committee member Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said on Fox News Wednesday the White House shouldn't exert executive privilege, and said Bannon began to answer one question before halting.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who never served in the Trump administration, had adopted the administration's posture in his interview with the committee.

The development has brought to the forefront questions about White House efforts to control what the former adviser tells Congress about his time in Trump's inner circle and whether Republicans on Capitol Hill would force the issue.

The person did not believe Bannon had hired a counsel for that yet.

"It's kind of a game of separation-of-powers chicken that's going on there", he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters officials are "following the same practice that many White Houses before us have that have gone back decades" with regard to congressional testimony.

When Bannon refused to answer questions, Schiff said, the committee decided on a bipartisan basis to issue the subpoena to make his attendance at the hearing "compulsory", and Bannon was served.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. "And so it's quite concerning, we're a nation - we have a rule of law and the White House is seeking to muzzle witnesses". Bannon reportedly invoked executive privilege, telling the committee that he couldn't answer their questions about anything he was involved with after the election because he'd been advised not to by the White House. Given reports that Bannon "intends to fully cooperate with Mueller" and will meet with prosecutors privately rather than go directly to the grand jury, it looks more likely this leak was just to lock down that Bannon was offered no choice in meeting with prosecutors.

"The scope of this assertion of privilege - if that's what it is - is breathtaking", Schiff said.

"Nobody's presented a plausible legal theory of the case to invoke executive privilege in the absence of the president doing it", said Rep. Denny Heck, a Democrat on the committee.

The congressional subpoena came the same day The New York Times reported that Bannon - a former far-right media executive and recently scorned political adversary of the president's - has been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a federal grand jury.

It also should put to bed another Bannon story from yesterday that got way, way, way more attention than it deserved.

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