Former Donald Trump advisor Steve Bannon Tuesday refused to answer questions from a congressional committee probing the president's campaign links to Russian Federation, saying he was under orders from the White House not to.
Uttam Dhillon, the White House lawyer responsible for responding to congressional investigators in the Russian Federation probe, had made the executive privilege request to Bannon's lawyer, William Burck, before Bannon's appearance Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Regardless, Bannon is an important figure in Trump's drive to the White House - and he may have interesting things to tell Mueller. "This was effectively a gag order by the White House", Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the top Democrat on the committee, told reporters after the testimony.
The meeting is expected to occur as soon as Friday, the sources said.
Others said it was still possible that the subpoena was a tactic to persuade Mr Bannon to meet investigators in a less formal setting, or that it could provide cover for a witness who had already chose to offer evidence.
Asked if the White House had told Bannon not to answer certain questions, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: "As with all congressional activities touching upon the White House, Congress must consult with the White House prior to obtaining confidential material".
Sanders stopped short of saying whether the White House actually invoked executive privilege to block Bannon's testimony, however.
On Fox News, he said Bannon was trying to assert a privilege that does not exist.
The subpoena is a sign that Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation.
Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee's chairman, confirmed Tuesday that he backed the subpoena, which he has unilateral power to approve.
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"Of course I authorized the subpoena", Rep. "That's how the rules work".
"Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency", Trump said.
Regardless, the committee's move to serve Bannon a subpoena during the interview was perceived as a rare moment of bipartisanship from a committee that has been racked with partisan acrimony.
A spokesman for Mr Mueller's office declined comment and Mr Bill Burck, a lawyer for Mr Bannon, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bannon was one of President Donald Trump's top advisers during the transition period and in the White House. Schiff said that information wasn't relayed to most members of the committee until the morning of the interview, prompting frustration among lawmakers.
Bannon was sacked by the White House in August and returned to Breitbart News.
"We have limited resources", Mr Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing said.
Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIntel Dem decries White House "gag order" after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mueller has subpoenaed Bannon in Russian Federation probe: report MORE (Calif.), the panel's top Democrat, accused the White House of issuing a "gag order" on Bannon.
Also Tuesday, The New York Times reported - citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter - that Bannon last week was subpoenaed by Mueller to testify before a grand jury as part of his Russian Federation investigation. Mueller has reportedly been interested in a series of misleading statements that emerged about that meeting.