Bannon strikes a deal: Will face Mueller not grand jury
Sheetal Sukhija - Thursday 18th January, 2018
Bannon will be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators in the Russia inquiry
Trump’s former chief strategist will avoid facing the grand jury for now
Now, he will be interviewed in the less formal setting of Mueller’s offices in downtown Washington
WASHINGTON, U.S. - U.S. President Donald Trump former chief strategist had a trick up his sleeve when he was reported to have been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller.
Mueller subpoenaed Bannon to appear before a grand jury this week - but now reports claim that Bannon has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, thereby avoiding testifying before a grand jury.
Instead, he will now be interviewed in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices in downtown Washington.
For starters, experts noted that it was not clear why Mueller subpoenaed Bannon and did not first ask him to sit for an interview.
The process Mueller has followed previously, with over a dozen current and former White House officials who were questioned in recent months wasn’t followed in this case.
However, despite the agreement sources reveal that Mueller could still call Bannon to appear before a grand jury after he meets with investigators.
According to legal experts, the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was accelerating while others said it may have simply been a negotiating tactic to force Bannon to quickly agree to be interviewed.
In the controversial book released by author Michael Wolff called ‘Fire & Fury: Inside the Trump White House,’ Bannon had been highly critical of a meeting that Kushner, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., took with two Russian lobbyists in June 2016.
Wolff's book quoted Bannon as calling the meeting "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."
Bannon reportedly said, "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s---, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
His comments immediately resulted in a full-blown breakup with Trump, but later Bannon clarified that he was primarily criticizing Manafort, who he said should have known better than to meet with the Russians at the height of the campaign.
Bannon further added that there was "zero" chance that Trump Jr. did not introduce the lobbyists to Trump.
Mueller’s subpoena, that was first reported by The New York Times, came after Bannon testified before investigators on the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-door hearing.
Bannon is still under subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, which is scrutinizing Russia's involvement in the election.
On Tuesday, Bannon reportedly refused to answer several questions about Trump, saying the White House had told him to assert executive privilege.
A White House official was quoted as saying that the White House believed it had an agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to limit questions for Bannon only to events on the presidential campaign, and not during his time in the Trump administration.
The official said that staffers for the committee and the White House on Friday discussed the parameters of Bannon's testimony.
At the end of that conversation, the White House believed it had an agreement to limit the questioning of Bannon just to events during the campaign.
However, hours into Bannon's closed-door testimony on Tuesday, Bannon's lawyers informed the White House from Capitol Hill that the questions would extend beyond the scope of what the White House understood the agreement to be.
It was then, that the White House told Bannon not to answer any further.
During his ten hours of testimony, Committee members of both parties were angered by Bannon’s lack of cooperation.
Democrats on the Committee said that the White House had used executive privilege as a “gag order” to stop Bannon from talking about the president.
On Thursday, lawmakers have asked Bannon to return to Capitol Hill to respond to the questions he refused to answer.
Now, reports quoted Bannon's attorney as telling the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Bannon would answer questions when he goes to the special counsel because executive privilege would not apply.
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