Special Counsel Robert Mueller was going to get around to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner eventually. The way these kinds of investigations work is that you start by pressing the peons to flip on the top underlings like Bannon and Kushner, then you use that evidence to force the top underlings to flip on the big dog. But after tonight’s 60 Minutes interview with Bannon, it’s likely Mueller will have cause to move on Bannon and Kushner much more quickly – that is, if he watches the unaired portions of the interview, which ended up being posted online.
For reasons only known to CBS, it didn’t air the portion of the 60 Minutes interview where Charlie Rose asked Steve Bannon whether Jared Kushner pressured Donald Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey. Perhaps the editors mistakenly thought it wasn’t important because Bannon refused to answer the question directly. Perhaps they did know why it was important, and they didn’t want the legal entanglements that it would bring. But if it’s the latter, why let it slip out online? In any case it has surfaced, and it’s a big deal.
Here’s the exchange that didn’t air. Rose said “It’s been reported that Jared Kushner was in favor of firing James Comey. Was that correct?” Here is Bannon’s stuttering answer: “I have, you guys have to, they will have to find that out either through the media or the investigation. I don’t know.” From there, Bannon is asked whether it’s true that he opposed Comey’s firing. He again hesitates, wanting to take credit for having been right, but also wanting to avoid answering the question, because he doesn’t want to give an opening to Mueller.
Steve Bannon was so far inside Donald Trump’s inner circle back in May of 2017, when Comey was fired, it’s a given that he was in on the discussion about the firing. He surely would have been in the meetings when Kushner and other advisers were pushing Trump to go through with the firing. Now he just lied about it during the interview, giving Robert Mueller grounds to pursue him. At the least, Bannon is guilty of misprision of a felony (failing to report the obstruction felony he witnessed Trump committing), even as Kushner is guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Bannon’s desire for the 60 Minutes limelight may have just sped things up.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report