Sen. Mark Warner (VA), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon to speak with federal investigators about Bannon’s recent claim that the president and some of his close advisers may have laundered money.
“If he’s got facts on [money laundering], I or a special prosecutor ought to hear them,” Warner told me in an interview Thursday.
The comments attributed to Bannon were revealed in excerpts from Michael Wolff’s provocative new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. In the book, Bannon scoffs at the idea that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation will end soon, as Trump’s lawyers continually tell him.
“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.”
Warner, whose committee is conducting its own investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign — would like Bannon to explain to him what exactly he knows about this money laundering business. (Meanwhile, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr has said he doesn’t think his committee needs to chat with Bannon.)
But perhaps even more importantly, Warner also wants Bannon to talk to federal prosecutors working with Mueller. And unlike the Senate committee investigation, Mueller’s team can actually charge people in Trump’s inner circle with crimes. Mueller already indicted four members of Trump’s campaign — including Paul Manafort — and two of them pleaded guilty.
Bannon may have a point. That’s why Warner wants him to talk.
Bannon’s money laundering charge could have some merit.
Mueller indicted Paul Manafort, who ran Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for several months in 2016, in October last year as part of his investigation. Manafort, and his business partner Rick Gates, face a total of 12 charges — including money laundering. The indictment alleges that Manafort laundered more than $18 million since 2006.
And in December, multiple reports showed that Mueller’s probe subpoenaed financial records from Deutsche Bank about people close to Trump. Interestingly, Kushner has a long-standing relationship with the German financial institution.
For example, his real estate company finalized a $285 million loan from Deutsche Bank one month before election day as part of a refinancing package for one of Kushner’s company’s properties in Times Square.
“It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit,” Bannon is quoted as saying in the Fire and Fury book. “The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that.” Bannon also told Wolff that a June 2016 meeting between Manafort, Trump Jr., and Kushner with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower was “treasonous.”
Bannon declined to comment to CNN if he would speak to the panels, and he didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Vox. But, at least for Warner, Bannon’s comments are too serious to ignore.
He’s “saying things that are more damning than anything I think virtually any Democrat said publicly,” Warner told me.