Russia probes come up against claims of executive privilege

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House and lawmakers haggled Thursday over what former chief strategist Steve Bannon and other top aides to President Donald Trump can tell Congress as it investigates possible connections with Russia.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been critical of the White House’s sweeping interpretation of executive privilege and its contention that pretty much everything is off limits until the president says it’s not.

Bannon had been subpoenaed to return to the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday to face additional questions about his interactions with the president, but documents obtained by The Associated Press show he now has until the week of Jan. 29. The committee gave him more time to “clarify the White House’s instructions” regarding what he can tell lawmakers, the documents show.

The postponement of Bannon’s interview came after his attorney, Bill Burck, sent a letter to the committee, arguing that it had failed to give him proper time to respond or review documents the committee may want to ask him about. According to the letter, obtained by the AP, the committee asked Burck to work with the White House to define the scope of the “privilege the President may wish to assert” over Bannon.

The negotiations will put Burck in the position of working out what one of his clients — Bannon — can say with an office overseen by another client, White House counsel Don McGahn. Burck is representing McGahn in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

While those negotiations continue, a scheduled interview for Friday with longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks was postponed, according to a person familiar with the committee’s investigation. A new date for her interview has not been set, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The postponements come after Bannon’s contentious, day-long interview earlier this week.

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