Will Russia Investigators Crack Steve Bannon ‘Like an Egg’?
Trump’s former chief strategist once warned that the president’s son would snap under the pressure of the Russia probe. Now Bannon’s getting squeezed.
At 9:30 on Tuesday morning, Steve Bannon will sit down in an uncrowded room.
But there are still people interested in him—namely, the staff and members of the House Intelligence Committee, who will question him Tuesday morning. Or at least, those congressmen and women who managed to get back to Washington after a holiday weekend.
For months, Bannon insisted that the investigations into potential connections between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin would never give him any heartburn. He even boasted that he would never need an attorney. But things have gotten complicated for the bomb-thrower, and The Daily Beast broke the news last week that he finally had to lawyer up.
That attorney, William Burck, also represents White House counsel Don McGahn and erstwhile White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Burck also represented Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader who pleaded guilty to charges related to his alleged effort to help Iranians launder billions of dollars worth of natural gas as part of a scheme to dodge U.S. sanctions. There is speculation that Zarrab also helped special counsel Robert Mueller build a case against retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
The Daily Beast has learned that as of now, Burck is counseling Bannon for purposes of the House Intelligence Committee interview, as well as matters related to the president’s threats to sue him over his comments in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury. It’s possible that potential conflicts of interest could arise if he simultaneously represented Bannon, McGahn, and Priebus on matters related to Trump’s presidency.
And in that interview, Bannon is expected to only field questions about the presidential campaign; in other words, don’t expect new revelations about the firing of James Comey or the president’s effort to spin The New York Times about his son’s infamous Trump Tower meeting.
However, the interview will almost certainly touch on the substance of that particular meeting, which Trump Jr. had at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Kremlin-linked lawyer. Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner joined that meeting as well.
Bannon told Michael Wolff that he thought the Americans who took that meeting were “treasonous.”
Bannon added, “They’re going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV.”
After Wolff published his comment and the president dubbed him Sloppy Steve, Bannon tried to walk back the “treasonous” line, saying he had only been referring to Manafort.
But behind closed doors and under oath, that story could potentially be a little different. The widespread Washington speculation is that Bannon may consider using this opportunity to damage Kushner, his former West Wing rival.
It’s all but certain investigators will also have questions for Bannon on the Trump family finances. In that same Wolff book, Bannon said he suspected Trump and his associates could be vulnerable to money-laundering charges. But he didn’t detail why he thought that; investigators will likely mine for those details.
And then there’s Cambridge Analytica. The data-analytics firm rose to prominence during the 2016 Republican primaries. Its head, Alexander Nix, is close with Rebekah Mercer, who has funded Breitbart. Mercer partially owns Cambridge, and Bannon has worked closely with the company as well. A few months before the presidential election, Nix reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and offered the firm’s services to help hackers organize and disburse emails that Hillary Clinton wiped from her hard drive. There’s no reason to believe WikiLeaks ever received those emails, and Assange confirmed to The Daily Beast that he received an offer from Cambridge Analytica, which he subsequently rejected.
The House Intelligence Committee has zeroed in on the Kremlin’s efforts to persuade and misinform American voters using online targeting. This has made the Trump campaign’s data operation a key focal point for them. The fact that Bannon worked closely with Cambridge Analytica—and that Jared Kushner also once boasted to Forbes about his role on the data front—means the tech side of Trump World could also be a topic.
Bannon is fond of describing his interactions with the media and activists on the left as “#WAR.” When he faces congressional investigators Tuesday morning, it will be a new kind of combat. And he will face it, for the most part, alone.