Published: Sun, January 21, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Questions and answers about executive privilege

Questions and answers about executive privilege

Steve Bannon's refusal to answer questions from a congressional committee about his time working for President Donald Trump is raising new concerns that the White House is trying to control what current and former aides tell Congress.

He was questioned behind closed doors on Tuesday in a 10-hour meeting. He didn't open up even when the panel took the unusual step of serving him with a subpoena during the hearing. Bannon's attorney said he would not invoke executive privilege when he meets with Mueller, because it would not apply in the arena of the special counsel's investigation.

The congressional subpoena for Bannon came after the former far-right media executive and recently scorned Trump adviser received a grand jury subpoena issued by Mueller.

On Tuesday, Bannon was hit with two subpoenas: one from the House Intelligence Committee and one from special counsel Robert Mueller.

While White House officials denied it, multiple reports said the administration invoked executive privilege - the ability of the President to keep some executive branch conversations shielded from Congress and the Judiciary - to keep Mr Bannon from talking.

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John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, this week dismissed the idea that Donald Trump's first year in office had been exceptionally chaotic.

Caleb Miller, a partner at Brown White & Osborn LLP, said the White House's understanding of executive privilege appeared "pulled out of someone's a***".

When one is testifying before Congress, it's the lawmakers who determine if questions must be answered, he continued. "It's very different than the grand jury, where he has the legal determination to answer all questions, subject to privilege". Gen. Jeff Sessions when he deployed a similar approach to avoid Senate Judiciary Committee questions last June, and again in November, about Russian Federation and his conversations with Trump.

The first president to invoke the executive privilege was George Washington in 1792, in order to keep information about an ill-fated expedition against American Indian tribes from the courts and Congress.

Q. Are there limits to the invocation of executive privilege?

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Dhillon, who has provided legal advice about executive privilege to Trump, is both a deputy counsel and deputy assistant to the president.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

"Because of that case, we know there's such a thing as a constitutionally protected executive privilege", said Susan Bloch, a Georgetown University constitutional law professor.

President Clinton tried to use executive privilege to avoid testifying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, but a federal judge rejected the attempt.

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