House intel panel leaders: Bannon refuses to answer many queries

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Steve Bannon, a former top adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, declined to answer many questions during his second closed-door meeting with the U.S. House Intelligence Committee on Thursday, frustrating members of the panel, Republican and Democratic committee leaders said.

Republican Representative Mike Conaway and Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said Bannon would only answer 25 questions approved by the White House. He claimed executive privilege and special protections for White House communications in refusing to say more, they said.

“He did not answer all the questions we’d like answered, so there was frustration among committee members with respect to that,” said Conaway, who has been overseeing the committee’s investigation of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election after U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the nation sought to interfere in the campaign.

Russia has denied trying to meddle in the election. Trump has denied collusion between his associates and Moscow.

“That is not how privilege works. That is how stonewalling works,” Schiff told reporters.

Schiff called for the initiation of contempt of Congress proceedings against Bannon.

When Conaway was asked whether he would back such a contempt proceeding, he said the decision was not his to make. “I think he (Bannon) should answer our questions,” he told reporters.

Bannon left after less than three hours of testimony. It was his second appearance before the committee.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)