Political News

Bannon agrees to cooperate with Mueller inquiry

Posted January 17, 2018 10:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 18, 2018 9:02 a.m. EST

Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump's former chief strategist, leaves after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 16, 2018. Bannon was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Trump's associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)

— Stephen Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, will be interviewed by investigators working for the special counsel in the Russia investigation instead of testifying before a grand jury, according to a person familiar with the matter, a sign that Bannon is cooperating with the inquiry.

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, had subpoenaed Bannon to appear before a grand jury this week. But Bannon has agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation and will be interviewed in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices in downtown Washington.

It was not clear why Mueller subpoenaed Bannon and did not first ask him to sit for an interview, as Mueller had done with more than a dozen current and former White House officials who were questioned in recent months. Mueller could still call Bannon to appear before a grand jury after he meets with investigators.

Legal experts have said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was accelerating while others said it may have simply been a negotiating tactic to force Bannon to quickly agree to be interviewed.

The subpoena was served after Bannon was quoted in the new book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” criticizing the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and predicting that Mueller’s investigation will ultimately center on money laundering.

Bannon is still under subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, which took the unusual step of subpoenaing him as he was being interviewed by its members Tuesday. He had refused to answer several questions about Trump, saying the White House had told him to assert executive privilege.

Committee members of both parties were angered by Bannon’s lack of cooperation during his 10 hours of testimony, and Democrats said that the White House had used executive privilege as a “gag order” to stop Bannon from talking about the president. The lawmakers would like Bannon to return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to respond to the questions he refused to answer. But Bannon’s lawyer told the committee that Bannon would not be appearing before the panel this week because there is not enough time to work out executive privilege issues with the White House.

CNN first reported Wednesday that Mueller would forgo Bannon’s grand jury appearance.

Also on Wednesday, a status hearing for George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, was postponed for up to 90 days. Papadopoulos is cooperating with Mueller’s inquiry while awaiting sentencing.