Steve Bannon spent ten hours in front of the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday trying to avoid answering a number of questions about Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. This came just as news surfaced that Bannon had been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, adding to the intrigue. Best we could parse it, Bannon was dodging the committee’s questions because he wanted to save his answers for Mueller, with whom he appears to have a deal. Now comes confirmation that Bannon will indeed sing like a canary for Mueller.
Bannon is planning to tell Mueller everything he knows about the Trump-Russia scandal, according to a new Daily Beast report citing someone familiar with Bannon’s thinking on the matter (link). So why would Bannon refuse to answer House Intel Committee questions, just to spill his guts to Mueller? The committee in question has become highly compromised. Devin Nunes and other Republicans on the committee were likely just trying to get a feel for what Bannon is going to tell Mueller, so they could warn Trump in advance.
Bannon, whatever you think of him, is savvy enough to understand this. If he really is looking to get his revenge on Trump by telling everything to Mueller, or even if he’s just looking to protect himself legally in the Trump-Russia scandal, he would do everything possible to avoid giving any hints to Trump’s puppets on the House Intel Committee beforehand. This would explain all of Tuesday’s bizarre developments, from Bannon’s weird refusal to answer questions while claiming that there was a vaguely defined gag order in place, to the Republicans’ aggressive push to try to force Bannon to spill his guts on the spot.
It’s not over yet. MSNBC reported on Tuesday night that the House Intel Committee has subpoenaed Steve Bannon to come back again on Thursday. It’s not yet clear if they’re willing to hold him in contempt and have him arrested if he once again refuses to answer the questions. The real question may be how soon Robert Mueller is planning to plug Bannon into that grand jury.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report