Saturday 17 March 2018

Steve Bannon set to appear before US House probe into Russia collusion

The former Breitbart News chief played a critical role in Donald Trump’s campaign.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's downfall came after the publication of Fire And Fury (AP)
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's downfall came after the publication of Fire And Fury (AP)

By Tom LoBianco and Mary Clare Jalonick

Former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon has arrived for his appearance before the US House Intelligence Committee in Washington as part of its probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The interview follows Mr Bannon’s spectacular fall from power after being quoted in a book as saying US president Donald Trump’s son and others engaged in “treasonous” behaviour for taking a meeting with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In Michael Wolff’s book, Fire And Fury, Mr Bannon accuses Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of essentially betraying the nation by meeting with a group of Russian lawyers and lobbyists who they believed were ready to offer “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

More recently, Mr Bannon has said he was not referring to Mr Trump Jr, but rather to Mr Manafort. Mr Wolff stands by his account.

After the book’s release, Mr Trump quickly disavowed “Sloppy Steve Bannon” and argued extensively there was no evidence of collusion between his presidential campaign and operatives tied to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The Fire And Fury author stands by his claims (AP)

Mr Bannon apologised a few days later, but was stripped of his job leading the pro-Trump news site Breitbart News. He had largely avoided the scrutiny of congressional investigators, who instead focused much of their energy on trying to secure interviews with top witnesses like Mr Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

But Mr Bannon played a critical role in the campaign, the presidential transition and the White House — all during times now under scrutiny from congressional investigators looking for possible evidence of a connection between Mr Trump’s operations and Russia.

The former strategist recently retained the same lawyer being used by former Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus and White House general counsel Don McGahn.

The House Intelligence Committee is speeding towards a conclusion of its interviews in the Russia investigation.

The final result could be marred by partisan infighting, raising the probability that Republicans on the panel will issue one set of findings while the Democrats will release their own.

Press Association

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