Steve Bannon cut deal with Robert Mueller to avoid grand jury: report
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon has struck a deal to be interviewed by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team rather than appearing before a grand jury, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing sources close to Bannon.
Bannon had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Mueller’s probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and any ties with President Donald Trump’s campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment on the CNN report. A lawyer who represented Bannon in an appearance before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Tuesday could not be immediately reached.
An interview with prosecutors would allow Bannon to have an attorney present during his appearance, as lawyers are not permitted in grand jury rooms.
Bannon was a close adviser during Trump’s campaign and in his first months in office, but he was fired from his White House job in August as the president sought to bring more order to his staff operations.
WATCH: Steve Bannon departs from Capitol Hill after declining subpoena
Bannon tight-lipped at House Intelligence Committee hearing
Bannon met with the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee hearing Tuesday, but refused to answer questions about his time working for the president.
A source told the Associated Press that Bannon’s lawyer, Bill Burck was communicating with the White House to ask whether Bannon could answer the questions.
It was unclear who he was communicating with.
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the questions were relayed over the phone and said it was a typical process.
“Sometimes they actually have a White House attorney present in the room,” she said. “This time it was something that was relayed via phone and again was following standard procedure for an instance like this and something that will likely happen again on any other number of occasions, not just within this administration but future administrations.”
When asked if the White House might be afraid of Bannon’s responses, Sanders said there was nothing “she was aware of.”
WATCH: WH not afraid about what Steve Bannon will say to committee
Trump vs. Bannon
Earlier this month, Trump attacked Bannon for comments he made to Michael Wolff, the author of a book highly critical of the president and his family. They included scathing remarks about Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, for meeting during the campaign with a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Mueller is investigating allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 campaign to try to tip the vote in Trump’s favor, as well as any potential collusion by Trump’s campaign with Moscow. Russia denies any attempt to interfere and Trump has denied any collusion.
According to a person familiar with the arrangement, the attorney who represented Bannon for Tuesday’s House appearance, Burck, is not representing him in connection with Mueller’s investigation. The person did not believe Bannon had hired a counsel for that yet.
Two other Trump associates, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn, and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, were due to appear before the House panel behind closed doors on Wednesday, congressional sources said.
Committee aides were not immediately available to comment.
The House Intelligence Committee is conducting one of the two main congressional investigations of the Russia issue, separate from Mueller’s probe.
*with files from Global News’ Rebecca Joseph
© 2018 Reuters