Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, has agreed to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller formally subpoenaed Bannon last week to testify in front of a grand jury, a move some saw as a ploy by Mueller to push Bannon to speak to his investigators in private. And it seems that gamble paid off.
Bannon has now agreed to sit down with prosecutors on Mueller’s team. That means he can tell Mueller what he knows behind closed doors — and without having to testify in front of a grand jury for now.
On Tuesday, Bannon testified in closed session before the House Intelligence Committee about the campaign. But the committee subpoenaed him in the middle of his testimony, apparently because he refused to answer questions about his time in the White House or on Trump’s transition team.
Bannon and his lawyer claimed the White House told him not to tell the committee much. “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.
But Bannon could be more talkative with Mueller. “Mueller will hear everything Bannon has to say,” a source close to Bannon told the Daily Beast on January 16.
Bannon joined the Trump campaign as its chair in August 2016 and then served as the Trump White House’s top strategist for one year. He would be in a good position to know if the Trump campaign purposely worked with Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election. However, it’s unclear just how much he might know about other major issues Mueller is surely looking into, including Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Regardless, Bannon is an important figure in Trump’s drive to the White House — and he may have interesting things to tell Mueller.
Bannon has already been outspoken about Trump-Russia
Bannon recently lost his job at the helm of the Trump-friendly Breitbart in part because of his recent comments about Trump and Russia.
Bannon opined to Michael Wolff, author of the explosive book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 in search of dirt on Hillary Clinton was “treasonous.”
He also speculated that then-candidate Trump was possibly involved in the meeting as well, and asserted that Jared Kushner was involved in some “greasy” business that could expose him to money laundering charges. (Trump responded to these allegations with a furious official White House statement denouncing Bannon.)
Bannon also reportedly told Wolff that Mueller’s Trump-Russia probe could ultimately result in charges related to money laundering.
“This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through [former Trump campaign chair] Paul Manafort, [Trump’s son] Don Jr and [Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser] Jared Kushner,” Bannon is quoted as saying. “It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants to hear what Bannon has to say on this issue. “If he’s got facts on [money laundering], I or a special prosecutor ought to hear them,” Warner told me in an interview earlier this month.
It looks like Mueller wants to hear those facts too.