Steve Bannon testifies for Russian Federation probe: Five questions House Intel may ask

Elias Hubbard
January 18, 2018

Bannon, 64, was a powerful figure in the Trump election campaign and the White House in the early months of Trump's presidency, pushing a hard-line nationalism aimed at shaking up U.S. domestic and foreign policy.

The New York Times said Mr Mueller had summoned Mr Bannon last week, citing a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

In the book by journalist Michael Wolff, Bannon criticized Trump for his firing of FBI Director James Comey and said it was "treasonous" of Trump's son Donald Trump accept a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who he thought would provide damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Sources told Fox News the subpoena was issued after the Federal Bureau of Investigation was initially unable to contact Bannon.

Only two weeks ago, the former White House chief strategist's attacks on key Trump aides in Michael Wolff's bombshell book Fire and Fury first emerged.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that the White House was not concerned with what Bannon might say to Congress or special counsel Robert Mueller's team.

After the interview, Democrats on the committee accused the White House of exerting influence over Mr. Bannon to keep him from expounding about his time in the West Wing.

Bannon spent hours on Tuesday meeting behind closed doors with members of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.

Schiff called it a "gag order", saying it was an "audacious" move by the White House to assert that at a later date they may seek to invoke executive privilege.

Earlier Tuesday, a White House official said the president did not invoke executive privilege to prevent Bannon from answering the committee's questions.

Bannon previous year had largely avoided the scrutiny of congressional investigators, who instead focused much of their energy on trying to secure interviews with top witnesses like Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The remarks saw Trump lash out at Bannon-formerly one of his closest confidantes-branding him "sloppy Steve" and reportedly demanding his ouster from the populist Breitbart News website, which Bannon had turned into one of the most aggressive platforms for Trump's anti-immigrant policies.

On Wednesday, the AP also confirmed that Bannon will meet with Mueller's investigators for an interview instead of appearing before a grand jury.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment on the newspaper report - which emerged late this afternoon.

Bannon was sacked by the White House in August and returned to the right-wing news website Breitbart News. It is much easier for a witness to stop the questioning or sidestep questions in an interview than during grand jury testimony, which is transcribed, and witnesses are required to answer every question.

Although Bannon did not join the Trump campaign until August 2016, lawmakers will want to know what he was told about the meeting, in which Kushner and Manafort were also present, and whether there was subsequent contact between the campaign and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Congress is holding its own inquiry into the allegations.

It is unlikely the committee will face the same White House objections with Trump's former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is also being interviewed Wednesday.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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