1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Bannon 'subpoenaed as part of Trump-Russia probe'

January 16, 2018

Steve Bannon has reportedly struck a deal to avoid appearing before a grand jury as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia probe. The ex-White House strategist has become increasingly isolated.

Stephen Bannon arrives at the US Capitol in Washington
Image: Reuters/J. Roberts

Steve Bannon, US President Donald Trump's former chief strategist and policy adviser, has reportedly struck a deal to be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the investigation into alleged ties between the 2016 Trump election campaign and Russia, rather than appearing before a grand jury. The New York Times originally reported on Bannon having been subpoenaed on Tuesday.

Covering Donald J. Trump

Bannon's was the first known subpoena to be issued by Mueller against a member of Trump's inner circle, according to the newspaper.

Read more: Opinion: Steve Bannon's demise is not the end of Trumpism

Intelligence committee testimony

News of the Mueller camp's move to question Bannon came as the former White House strategist testified before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which is running its own probe into allegations of collusion between the Trump camp and Moscow.

During his testimony, which occurred behind closed doors, Bannon refused to answer several of the committee's questions by citing "executive privilege" which allows the president to keep information from the public. His attorney Bill Burck maintained contact with the White House throughout the hearing, relaying questions in real time and waiting for answers as to whether his client could address the questions representatives put to him.

"Steve Bannon and his attorney asserted a remarkably broad definition of executive privilege," Representative Jim Himes, a Democratic member of the committee, told CNN.

The committee later issued its own subpoena for Bannon for refusing to answer its questions which also focused on Trump's thinking when he fired former FBI Director James Comey.

The top Democrat on the committee, Representative Adam Schiff, said Bannon's continued refusal to answer the questions, even after the subpoena, was a directive from the White House.

When Bannon consulted the White House, he "got the same instruction back again. Basically, 'we don't care whether it's under compulsory process or a voluntary basis — we're instructing you, effectively putting in place a gag rule,'" said Schiff.

Rep. Adam Schiff : "This was effectively a gag order by the White House

Other top-tier Trump team witnesses have also been questioned by Congressional committees investigating collusion allegations, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

The panel is scheduled to hear from former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski later this week. 

Bannon and Trump - a very public spat

Once the champion of Trump's "America First" campaign, Bannon was fired from the White House in August and returned to run the right-wing website Breitbart News. Bannon still spoke highly of Trump and vowed to continue pushing the president's agenda.

Bannon to leave Breitbart News

However, the pair have since had a very public falling out over comments Bannon made in journalist Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."

In the book, Bannon is quoted as saying that meetings held between Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russia-linked lawyer amounted to treason.

Read more: Donald Trump-Steve Bannon spat: President's lawyers issue legal threat

When news of Bannon's comments broke, Trump accused his former aide — whom he now disparagingly refers to as "Sloppy Steve" — as having "lost his mind." Bannon has since said he regretted making those remarks about the president's son, insisting the treason accusation was directed instead at Manafort.

An increasingly isolated figure within conservative circles, Bannon subsequently stepped down from Breitbart after losing the support of wealthy conservative brokers the Mercer family.

rs, dm/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)