Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is expected to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Bannon, who left his job at the White House in August amid frequent clashes with other staff members, had a dramatic and public split with Trump earlier this month.
The former Trump adviser, who had remained in touch with the president after leaving the White House, was quoted in a new tell-all book calling actions by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., “treasonous.”
In the book Fire and Fury, author Michael Wolff said Bannon was referring to Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer to try to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Trump responded to Bannon’s quotes in the book with a scathing statement: “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Bannon later said he was referring to former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, not Trump Jr., when he criticized the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians.
The Intelligence Committee asked Bannon in December — before the Trump-Bannon split — if he would agree to come in for an interview.
Here are five questions that committee members and staff may ask Bannon:
1. What information do you have about the Trump Tower meeting?
Bannon did not join the Trump campaign until August 2016, about two months after the June 9 Trump Tower meeting that Trump Jr. attended along with Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser. The three met with Kremlin-linked Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya and others.
Although Bannon was not a campaign official at the time, investigators will still want to know if he spoke to Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort or anyone else on the campaign about what happened at the meeting and what contact the campaign may have had with participants after the meeting.
2. Do you have any knowledge that then-candidate Donald Trump was introduced to the Russian attorney and other participants before or after the meeting?
In Wolf’s book, Bannon is quoted as saying that “the chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.” Trump has denied that he knew about the Trump Tower meeting until July 2017, when news reports about it began to come out.
3. Did President Trump ever discuss the Trump Tower meeting or his response to it with you?
Investigators are looking into the president’s possible involvement in crafting a misleading statement from Donald Trump Jr. in July 2017 that described the meeting with the Russians as “primarily” about Russian adoptions and “not a campaign issue.”
Those claims were proven to be misleading a short time later. Trump Jr. released emails arranging the meeting and acknowledged that he agreed to go because he hoped to get damaging information about Clinton from the Russians.
4. What information, if any, to you have about possible money laundering involving Trump’s businesses and Russia?
Bannon, in Fire and Fury, was quoted as saying that he expects special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to focus on money laundering.
“This is all about money laundering,” Wolff quotes Bannon as saying. “Their path to [expletive] Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner…It’s as plain as a hair on your face. It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner (stuff). The Kushner (stuff) is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those . . . guys up and say play me or trade me.”
Investigators are going to want to know if Bannon was just mouthing off or if he actually has knowledge of money laundering.
5. Has President Trump talked to you about the possibility that he might fire Mueller?
Trump has said publicly several times that he has no intention of firing the special counsel. However, before their recent split, Bannon advised the president on how to deal with Mueller’s investigation, and Bannon could talk about whether Trump was cooperating with the probe or actively trying to block it in some way.