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miércoles, 17 de enero de 2018

Robert Mueller subpoenas Steve Bannon to testify in Russia probe

Special investigator Robert Mueller has made his most shocking subpoena to date in his investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign team and Russia during the 2016 election season.

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon received his call to court from Mueller last week. Bannon received another subpoena on Tuesday from a panel in the House of Representatives.

According to the New York Times, this move marks “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.”

Not The First Attempt

According to a source close to the investigation, the FBI attempted to serve the subpoena to Bannon last week at his home in Washington, though Bannon had hired Washington attorney William Burck just hours before. The subpoena, which orders Bannon to testify before Mueller’s grand jury, was then sent to Burck.

This is a different strategy than Mueller has used in the past with Trump’s insiders; Mueller typically has asked for a voluntary, informal interview. According to sources close to Bannon, if this option was presented, the former White House adviser would likely take it.

NBC reported:

Three people familiar with the special counsel’s investigation suggested Mueller moved to subpoena Bannon, rather than ask him to voluntarily appear for questioning, in order to thwart any potential attempt by the White House to pressure Bannon into refusing to cooperate.

Either way, Bannon could be interviewed by Mueller associates before the end of the month.

The Other Subpoena

Bannon was also subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday after he refused to answer questions in a closed door meeting that lasted more than 10 hours, which angered both Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

“We’re going to get answers from Mr. Bannon,” Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said.

The House’s subpoena prompted Bannon’s attorneys to phone the White House, however, according to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who said that the White House instructed him to stonewall the committee.

“This was effectively a gag order by the White House,” Rep. Schiff said. According to Politico, Schiff said much of the time [questioning Bannon] was spent negotiating the parameters of his testimony.”

Politico reported:

Schiff and Conaway confirmed that Bannon and the White House didn’t specifically assert executive privilege to avoid answering questions, but rather suggested that some of the answers could potentially infringe upon executive privilege. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made a similar case when he declined to answer some questions he had received from lawmakers in various ongoing Russia probes.

But Bannon also refused to discuss conversations he may have had with Trump even after he left the White House in August, Schiff said. And a source familiar with the interview added that lawmakers were perplexed at Bannon’s suggestion that the transition period — when Trump wasn’t yet in office — could be subject to executive privilege claims.

The White House has dismissed the subpoena as “a grandstanding move,” but with Bannon’s reputation with the president in tatters after his comments in a recently published book, the former adviser shouldn’t look to the executive branch for help getting out of this one.