Steve Bannon Calls In Sick To House Intel Committee Again, Because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Stephen K. Bannon: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, swathed in two button-down shirts. But seriously, what the hell is going on with that guy? He was supposed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee (HPSCI) today, but has just been granted a third postponement and won't appear until next week. Or maybe never.
We at Wonkette are old enough to remember January 16, when Bannon first appeared before HPSCI and refused to answer any questions -- he wasn't invoking executive privilege, just preserving the president's ability to invoke it at some point in the future. Which is not a thing! Jeff Sessions and Cory Lewandowski got away with it, because, you know ... GOP! But this time, Republicans actually lost their shit.
Was it because Bannon is in a foul odor with the party after gin-whispering in Michael Wolff's ear about DJ's treason party with all the Russians? Or was it because he mansplained that ACTUALLY executive privilege covers every conversation with or about the president, including during the transition and after Bannon left the White House? (Which is also very much not a thing!) Whatever it was, it reduced Trey Gowdy to sputtering furiously to Tucker Carlson about "the most tortured analysis of executive privilege I have ever heard of." Even Devin Nunes quit treasoning long enough to issue a subpoena on the spot to force Bannon to talk.
AND YET, Bannon is still refusing to testify. Republican Mike Conaway's office explained it to CNN as an ongoing negotiation, no big deal:
We look forward to having him before the Committee once we can assure that he will be able to thoroughly answer all our questions without concerns regarding the scope of executive privilege.
Democrat Adam Schiff put a different spin on it:
This week, Steve Bannon’s counsel informed the Committee that the White House continues to prohibit Mr. Bannon from testifying to the Committee beyond a set of fourteen yes-or-no questions the White House had pre-approved. The White House’s bar on Bannon’s testimony covers matters during the transition, his tenure at the White House, and his communications with the President since leaving government service, even though the President has not in fact invoked executive privilege.
This is unacceptable, and the Committee remains united on this matter – the Committee’s subpoena remains in effect and his interview has been rescheduled for next week.
"Fourteen yes-or-no questions," pre-approved by Trumpland? No wonder Schiff wants to LOCK HIM UP! Even Trey Gowdy and Mike Conaway are making noises about having a subpoena and knowing how to use it, mister! Which we'll believe when we see it. If they really wanted to do something about it, they would have already held him in contempt, not offered yet another extension.
To top it off, Bannon will be telling "anything and everything" to Special Counsel Mueller next week, executive privilege be damned.
So, what the hell is going on here? Well, there is a rare disagreement in the Wonkette Seekrit Chat Cave. Will there be fisticuffs? There will not. But there will be fervent I Told You So's when we finally sort out what flavor of fuckery is afoot here. [Or will there??? - Ed.]
Option 1: Mueller Got to Him
Rachel Maddow's theory, as expounded upon by Wonkette's own Evan Hurst, is that Bannon will not spill his precious seed at the House Clown Show. He only unbuttons his blouses for discreet older gentlemen who don't leak your nudes online in some amateur memo with bad lighting. He's saving all his love for yoooooouuuu, Robert Mueller.
This jibes perfectly with the rest of Adam Schiff's statement this morning:
Testifying before the Special Counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the Committee. Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the Committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony.
Maybe Bannon is going to flip on Trump, and he's just pretending to play along with the White House's executive privilege gambit as a cover!
Option 2: Bannon is Trying To Worm His Way Back into Trumpland
Except Bannon is working right out of the White House's playbook -- he was on the phone with the White House Counsel's office during the HPSCI Interview, following their direct orders not to answer questions. The same day that Bannon refused to talk, Corey Lewandowski clammed up too, because ... reasons. Per Bloomberg:
Asked why Lewandowski did not want to answer any questions about conversations and events after his departure, King said: "Because he wasn’t prepared. For something like this you have to prepare for days and weeks."
Clearly, the Republicans aren't going to do a damn thing if Bannon, Lewandowski, Hicks, or anyone else flips them the bird. Bannon can play the loyal soldier by refusing to talk, with no fear of Republicans actually issuing a contempt citation. There's no downside risk -- which makes this the likelier option in the opinion of Your FDF.
Of course he'll spill the beans for Mueller! That guy would be delighted to ransack Bannon's house in a pre-dawn raid and throw him in jail. But Bannon isn't making this sham invocation of privilege before HPSCI because he's suddenly #TeamMueller. He's the same selfish, suck-up sycophant he always was. And if there's a chance that he can get back into the Republican Garden of Eden, he'll jump on it.
We'll find out soon which Wonksplainer is right! But in the meantime, y'all can
tell Evan he's wrong give us your thoughts in the comments! [WHAT IF WE ARE BOTH RIGHT, HUH? - Ed.]
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.