The Russia scandal isn’t about to go away just because the president tells it to.
He has whined on and on about how there’s supposedly nothing to the scandal, and yet, Special Counsel Robert Mueller begs to differ, having so far brought charges against four of the president’s former associates, including most recently Michael Flynn.
Now, Mueller is reported to have served former Trump campaign manager and former presidential strategist Steve Bannon with a subpoena.
The New York Times reports that an individual with knowledge of the investigation revealed to them that Bannon was subpoenaed last week by Mueller’s office to testify before a grand jury, a tactic that Mueller has not yet reportedly used on any current or former members of the president’s inner circle.
Recently, Bannon and his former boss Donald Trump experienced a very public falling out after the publication of an incendiary book by author Michael Wolff called Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.
Wolff included harsh comments from Bannon in his book, including a quip that the infamous 2016 meeting involving Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-connected lawyer was “treasonous.”
Bannon eventually offered a sort-of apology for his comments, saying, among other points, that he didn’t actually mean to say Trump Jr. had been knowingly involved in the “treasonous” activities. He said he meant that in reference to other participants’ in the meeting.
The New York Times explains that the subpoena could be used as a “negotiating tactic” to force Bannon to comply with the investigation. According to the source speaking to the publication, Mueller’s office “is likely” to allow Bannon to skip testimony in front of a grand jury if he agrees to be interviewed by Mueller’s team.
Grand jury testimony is harsher for the witness than a private interview; in the former, witnesses are required to answer every question. The Times reports that prosecutors prefer grand jury testimony in cases where “they believe that they have information that the witnesses do not know or when they think they might catch the witnesses in a lie.”
It’s not a given that either of these qualifications apply to Bannon’s case.
Bannon, as The Times notes, was helping lead the Trump campaign when Wikileaks began releasing Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s private emails, and he helped lead the Trump transition team after Chris Christie was pushed out.
On the other hand, as to the question of what knowledge Bannon has that the Special Counsel’s office may be interested in, he likely has no firsthand knowledge of either the firing of James Comey or the drafting of a deceptive statement about the aforementioned 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, both of which are areas of interest for the Mueller’s office in their mission to discover whether Trump should be considered guilty of obstruction of justice.
This reported subpoena isn’t the first time that Bannon has come under scrutiny — this very week, on Tuesday, he was set to sit down with the House Intelligence Committee as a part of their ongoing investigation into the Russia scandal.
The president isn’t likely to be fond of this development, but that’s what happens when you base your rise to power on corruption.
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