Steve Bannon, formerly a top adviser to President Trump, reportedly will follow up his behind-closed-doors testimony before the House Intelligence Committee with an appearance before a grand jury hearing evidence on Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.
According to a report in the New York Times, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller subpoenaed the controversial Bannon, who recently was forced to step down from Breitbart.com after he made critical statements in a tell-all book by Michael Wolff about the Trump campaign and administration. Recognized as having the president's ear first as his campaign manager and then as White House adviser, Bannon had a birds-eye view of the administration's inner workings.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers,” Wolff quoted Bannon as saying.
But the Times said Bannon was firsthand knowledge of two main points of interest to Mueller – the circumstances surrounding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and how a misleading statement about the Trump Tower was crafted.
The subpoena indicates that Bannon is not a target in Mueller's investigation, and that it could be used to pressure the former presidential adviser into an interview with investigators instead of an appearance before the grand jury, and compel him to be forthcoming with what he might know.
“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice – I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,'” the Times cited Solomon L. Wisenberg, who was on the independent counsel's prosecutorial team that probed former President Bill Clinton.
During his eight hours of testimony Bannon refused to answer some of the lawmakers' questions on orders from the White House, compelling the committee to slap him with a subpoena during his testimony. Even after the subpoena served, Bannon refused to answer the questions following his lawuer's Consultation with the White House.
“The scope of this assertion of privilege—if that's what it is—is breathtaking,” The Hill cited Rep. Schiff, D-Calif., as saying. “It goes well beyond anything we've seen in this investigation … This was effectively a gag order by the White House.”