Former Trump campaign manager and top strategist Steven Bannon has been subpoenaed by special counsel, Robert Mueller, and will have to appear before a grand jury in the ongoing Russia investigation, it was learned today. It’s the first time that Mueller has used a subpoena on a person in the president’s inner circle.
The move raises questions about Mueller’s motives. Mueller has questioned many members of the administration and even members of President Trump’s family in recent months without a subpoena. It’s unclear why Bannon was being treated differently.
Some speculate that the move is a negotiating tactic. Experts agree that Mueller would forgo the subpoena and the grand jury testimony if Bannon agrees to be questioned by the special counsel’s investigators. Mueller could simply be trying to convince Bannon to cooperate fully.
It could also be a signal to Bannon that despite the president’s legal threats, investigators expect Bannon to answer their questions as honestly and openly as possible. The president recently threatened Bannon with legal action if he didn’t stop disclosing confidential and disparaging information about President Trump and his family. Bannon’s comments have served as the bulk of material for the controversial new anti-Trump book, Fire and Fury.
It is because of that book that Mueller decided to subpoena Bannon, it’s being reported. Bannon calls a meeting between Russian lawyers and members of Trump’s family “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” in the book. He also makes extensive comments about the Trump family’s finances and how, ultimately, that might be what leads to President Trump.
He’s quoted in the book as saying, “You realize where this is going. This is all about money laundering. Their path to…Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner …It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
It’s believed that if given the choice, Bannon would choose an interview with investigators over testimony before a grand jury. The main advantage to an interview setting is that when testifying before a grand jury the witness’ lawyer can’t be present.
Bannon gave closed testimony this morning to the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, which is also investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election. He did not address reporters or comment before entering the hearing.