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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Bannon called before grand jury in Russia investigation

Former Trump adviser will testify as part of main inquiry into alleged Russian meddling

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a campaign event for Republican candidate for US Senate Judge Roy Moore in Fairhope, Alabama. Jonathan Bachman / Reuters
Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a campaign event for Republican candidate for US Senate Judge Roy Moore in Fairhope, Alabama. Jonathan Bachman / Reuters

Steve Bannon, a former senior adviser to US president Donald Trump, has been called to testify before a grand jury as part of the main investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper said it marked the first time special counsel Robert Mueller has used such a power against a member of Mr Trump's inner circle.

Mr Bannon, who recently had a public falling out with Mr Trump over comments he made to the author of controversial book Fire and Fury, was meeting on Tuesday with the US house of representatives' intelligence committee as part of its Russia investigation.

According to a source cited by the New York Times, the subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. In fact, Mr Mueller is likely to allow Mr Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices. Investigators are likely to question Mr Bannon on the ties between the president's associates and Russia, as well as his often controversial conduct in office.

This comes just weeks after Mr Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort sued Mr Mueller, alleging that his office’s wide-ranging investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was exceeded its legal authority and needed to be reined-in.

The timing of his subpoena is not tied to Mr Bannon’s recent falling-out with the president, exacerbated by comments attributed to him in Fire and Fury. Mr Trump has criticised Mr Bannon – calling him Sloppy Steve – since excerpts emerged labelling the president's son Donald Trump Jr. "treasonous" for attending a 2016 meeting with Russian nationals.

Mr Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, who has not been accused of wrongdoing in the Russia inquiry, was invited by the committee in a letter last month. Initially, the panel had sent a request for a “voluntary interview” in its offices.

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