Less than a week ago, the House Intelligence Committee in its Republican majority seemed to be closely aligned with President Donald Trump and keen on helping him obstruct justice in the Russia scandal. But once the Devin Nunes memo was released, and now that several of the committee’s GOP members are facing potential legal trouble, their tune has suddenly changed.
The first sign of this came earlier this week when the committee voted unanimously to release the Democratic rebuttal memo in response to Nunes’ memo. Strangely enough, every Republican on the committee, and even Nunes himself, voted for its release.
Nevertheless, perhaps the biggest sign came on Wednesday, when Steve Bannon did not appear before the committee and claimed he didn’t want to testify for it just yet, because he prefers to testify for Special Counsel Robert Mueller first.
Surprisingly, the House Intel Committee opted not to have Bannon arrested for contempt of Congress on the spot, and granted him another week to show up According to CNN:
“The House Intelligence Committee’s interview with Stephen Bannon has been postponed at the Committee’s initiative until next week,” Emily Hytha, spokeswoman for Rep. Mike Conaway, the Republican running the committee’s Russia probe, said in a statement. “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.”
“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,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California said in a statement, adding that the committee “remains united” and that the subpoenas are still in affect.”
One thing to keep in mind here is that this isn’t the first time Bannon has pulled this stunt. Just last month, Bannon spent an entire day before the committee, refusing to answer question after question about the Trump-Russia scandal, which prompted the committee to subpoena him this week in the first place.
Regardless, it seems pretty clear what’s happening here. Trump was obviously trying to use the committee to lure Bannon into answering these questions before meeting with Mueller in order to set up his defense. However, because Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have granted Bannon an extra week, allowing him enough time to meet with Mueller, Trump will not be able to do so.
Bill Palmer points out: “So now we know that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee are no longer Donald Trump’s puppets. Trey Gowdy, the most powerful Republican on the committee, now spends his days singing Mueller’s praises. Mike Conaway, the Republican technically in charge of the committee’s Trump-Russia investigation, is just rolling with it. Devin Nunes has clearly lost the ability and/or the desire to serve as Trump’s stooge in the investigation.”
Perhaps they’re sending a message that they’ve finally had enough.