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Legal experts say White House has expanded use of executive privilege without actually invoking it

Chris Megerian and David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

Issa declined to be interviewed for this story.

The venue for most conflicts involving the Russia investigation has been the House Intelligence Committee, one of three congressional panels conducting inquiries.

When the House panel interviewed Donald Trump Jr. about his June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-linked lawyer, he refused to recount his conversation with his father about the meeting, claiming attorney-client privilege because a lawyer was present at the time.

Bannon, the former White House strategist, rejected to answer any questions from the committee regarding events or conversations after the election. After the committee slapped him with a subpoena, Bannon agreed to return for another hearing.

But during his second appearance, he was only willing to address a pre-determined list of yes or no questions that White House lawyers had helped him prepare.

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, declined to discuss whether Bannon would be held in contempt.

A spokesman for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the panel's chairman, did not respond to a question about how many subpoenas had been issued in the investigation. Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., declined requests for interviews.

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Rozell, the George Mason professor, said the Constitution's separation of powers was no longer working as envisioned.

"James Madison would not be happy to see this. He believed each branch of government would zealously defend its prerogatives," he said. "The administration is essentially preventing the legislative branch from doing its job. And to extent they stand down, it weakens the institution in the long run."

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