Ex-Trump strategist Bannon to appear before probe on Russian meddling

January 12, 2018 - 1:37 PM
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. (photo by Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon will be interviewed next week by a U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The interview behind closed doors on Tuesday with the House Intelligence Committee will focus on Bannon’s time on the campaign, not the transition or his time in the White House, the source said.

Bannon’s appearance comes as many Democrats worry that Trump’s fellow Republicans are seeking to stall or shut down congressional probes of Russia and the 2016 election. It gives investigators a chance to talk to someone who spent months as one of Trump’s closest advisers.

Although Bannon was fired from his White House position by Trump in August, he had been a close Trump associate since he joined the Trump campaign and helped the political novice defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

The two men had a public falling out this month after Bannon was quoted in author Michael Wolff’s controversial book on the Trump White House, “Fire and Fury,” as calling a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

Bannon’s comments in the book helped fuel calls for him to testify in Congress about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that included a Russian lawyer and Trump associates, which has been a focus for investigators looking into Russia and the election.

Aides to the committee’s leaders declined comment. The intelligence panel’s practice is not to discuss specific witnesses or its schedule except for public hearings.

Separately, Representative Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat, told reporters on Thursday he would like “dozens” more witnesses, including Bannon, to appear before the committee, making clear he does not view the panel’s investigation of Russia and the election as near its end.

Some Republicans in Congress have been saying they expect the House Intelligence probe and other congressional investigations to wrap up quickly. Democrats have been disputing this, saying there is much work remaining to determine whether Russia attempted to influence the election on Trump’s behalf or whether Trump colluded.

Moscow denies trying to meddle, and Trump dismisses talk of collusion.

“There are still dozens of witnesses that we could bring in,” Schiff told reporters. “At a minimum we should set out all the facts for the public, and we can’t do that if we’re leaving a lot of investigative pathways uninvestigated,” he added.

Besides Bannon, Schiff said those witnesses would include Trump’s daughter Ivanka. He also said he would like Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to appear again before the committee.

Schiff noted that the choice of witnesses is determined by panel Republicans – who control the committee – some of whom he accused of trying to stall, or possibly shut down, the investigation, possibly to distract from the investigation of Trump.

Republicans deny this.