Donald Trump's ex-aide Steve Bannon strikes deal to avoid grand jury testimony: Report

Bannon leaves after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington, Jan 16, 2018.
Bannon leaves after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington, Jan 16, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Former White House strategist Steve Bannon has struck a deal to be interviewed by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team rather than appearing before a grand jury, CNN reported on Wednesday (Jan 17), 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 US 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.

Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly told Fox News on Wednesday the White House did not tell Bannon to invoke executive privilege in closed testimony before Congress.

Bannon, in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, refused to answer questions about his time in Trump's administration or during the transition after his lawyer had conferred with the White House, according to Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee.

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.

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 favour, 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, William 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