Bannon makes last-minute offer to testify to Jan. 6 committee ahead of criminal contempt trial
Longtime Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon has made a last-minute offer to testify to the Jan. 6 select committee, just days before his criminal trial for defying the panel’s subpoena is set to begin.
The offer, in a letter from Bannon’s attorney Robert Costello, cited an accompanying letter from Trump himself purporting to “waive” executive privilege over Bannon’s testimony — a privilege that the committee and Justice Department say was never properly invoked and might not be applicable to a former president.
It’s unclear whether the panel considers the offer a serious one. Bannon has for months refused to testify to the committee by claiming absolute “immunity” from congressional subpoenas because of his role in the Trump White House, which ended in 2017. That immunity, he argued, stemmed from longstanding internal Justice Department opinions that prohibit Congress from compelling the testimony of current or former high-level officials. Offering to testify suggests he may be abandoning the immunity claim.
Costello said in the email that Bannon still considered the subpoena invalid but was deferring to Trump’s wish that Bannon testify.
Costello’s letter made no mention of the committee’s subpoena for Bannon’s documents. But Costello said in an email to POLITICO that Bannon also intended to provide documents subpoenaed by the committee as part of any arrangement.
The Justice Department charged Bannon with two counts of criminal contempt in November for his defiance of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. One count concerns his refusal to testify, and the other is for his refusal to provide documents. It’s not clear whether belated compliance would affect either of the counts against him.
Bannon’s offer arrived less than 10 days before his contempt trial was slated to begin, on July 18. And he’s due in court Monday for a crucial hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols, who is weighing Bannon’s attempt to delay his trial until October. Nichols is also considering motions from Bannon that pertain to the Justice Department internal opinions and whether Costello — who advised Bannon not to comply with the select committee last year — can be a witness in his defense.
The offer is another last-minute wrinkle for the select committee from a high-level witness. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who is facing a seditious conspiracy charge for his role in assembling the group in Washington on Jan. 6, said Friday he would waive his Fifth Amendment rights and testify if the committee allowed him to do it publicly.
Costello, too, said Bannon would prefer to testify publicly, but that appears to be a nonstarter.
Select committee member Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the committee received the letter from Costello “around midnight” but hadn’t yet had the chance to discuss it.
“I expect that we will be hearing from him,” she said. “And there are many questions that we have for him.”
Another panel member, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that investigators would be open to hearing from Bannon but that he wouldn’t be treated differently from any other witness.
“The way that we have treated every single witness is the same, that they come in, they talk to the committee there,” he said. “If they’re going to take a deposition, they’re sworn under oath. It’s videotaped. It’s recorded, and then we take it from there,”
A committee spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Bannon’s offer.
Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.
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