Donald Trump’s White House is secretly working behind closed doors to limit testimony to congressional committees investigating Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
According to reporting from CNN, the effort by the administration to silence key witnesses became clearer this week when “Steve Bannon appeared before the House Intelligence Committee and infuriated both sides of the aisle by refusing to answer questions about his work during the presidential transition and in the White House.”
More from the report:
At some points during Bannon’s six hours of closed-door testimony, his attorney took breaks to confer via telephone with the White House counsel’s office to clarify what questions could be answered and came back with the same guidance: Bannon could not discuss any activities related to the transition or his tenure in the White House.
“All shots were called by the White House,” says one source familiar with the proceedings.
But when it comes to the congressional investigations, the White House counsel’s office is instructing some witnesses to limit their testimony, testing the extent of executive privilege by refusing to discuss any activity that occurred after the 2016 election.
The White House claims that while Congress is entitled to ask any question it wants, privilege can be waived only by the President. They argue that, in this case, the transition is covered by privilege, while the campaign is not.
In other words, some officials being interviewed by these committees – like former chief strategist Steve Bannon – may no longer be part of the administration, but the White House is still pulling strings behind in hopes of keeping key information from congressional investigators.
This despite the fact that the president, his lawyers, and White House officials have bragged about their transparency and cooperation when it comes to the Russia probe.
“We’ve been fully cooperative with the ongoing investigations, and we’re going to continue to do so,” Sarah Sanders said during Wednesday’s White House briefing. “We encourage the committees to work with us to find the appropriate accommodation in order to ensure Congress obtains all the information that they’re looking for.”
Democrats are seeing right through this charade, slamming the White House for essentially gagging witnesses.
“This was effectively a gag order by the White House preventing this witness from answering almost any question concerning his time in the transition or the administration,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, according to CNN.
This is not transparency. It’s obstruction. It’s the behavior of a president and an administration that has something to hide and will go to any lengths to hide it.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.