While former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon—fresh off his ouster from Breitbart News—was being interviewed behind closed doors by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed Bannon last week to testify before a grand jury, a decision some viewed as another sign that the Trump-Russia probe is intensifying.
"The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump's inner circle," the Times reports, citing an anonymous official. "The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel's offices about ties between Mr. Trump's associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office."
While Bannon may have relatively little firsthand knowledge of President Donald Trump's decision to fire former FBI director James Comey and other matters of significant interest to Mueller's team, the Times notes, even his "secondhand knowledge could be used to draw a contrast with statements from people with firsthand knowledge whom Mueller has already interviewed.
News of the subpoena comes less than two weeks after Bannon was quoted in an explosive new book calling the decision by Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials to meet with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign "treasonous."
Bannon also told author Michael Wolff that he believes the Russia probe is "all about money laundering" and that Trump is not taking the investigation as seriously as he should be.
"You realize where this is going," Bannon told Wolff. "This is all about money laundering. "Their path to f***ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner….It's as plain as a hair on your face."
The former Breitbart chair's comments riled Trump, who took to Twitter and called Bannon "Sloppy Steve" while claiming his former chief strategist "cried when he got fired and begged for his job."
Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book. He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad! https://t.co/mEeUhk5ZV9— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2018