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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Bannon expected to meet privately with Russia probe

President’s former strategist will appear before the House Intelligence Committee

Former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, left, will appear before the House Intelligence Committee. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo
Former White House strategist Stephen Bannon, left, will appear before the House Intelligence Committee. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, is expected to meet privately with the House Intelligence Committee as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, the panel’s top Democrat said Thursday.

“We do want him to come in,” representative Adam Schiff of California said Thursday in a meeting with reporters. “It is my expectation he will be doing that.”

A committee official familiar with its schedule has said Mr Bannon is likely be interviewed next week, though plans are fluid.

The timing of his interview isn’t tied to Bannon’s recent falling out with the president, exacerbated by comments attributed to him in the book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. Mr Trump has torn into Mr Bannon – calling him ‘Sloppy Steve’ – since excerpts emerged that said Mr Bannon labeled as “treasonous” a 2016 meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr. and Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner with Russian nationals.

Mr Bannon has since said he holds former campaign chairman Paul Manafort responsible for allowing the meeting – held in an attempt to dig up dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton – to go forward.

The former Breitbart chief, who hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in the Russia inquiry, was initially invited by the committee in a letter last month. Rather than a subpoena compelling him to testify, the panel sent a request for a “voluntary interview” in its offices. The letter doesn’t lay out specific reasons the committee wants to interview them, or the questions the panel wants to pose, but it makes clear that the interviews are part of the Russia investigation.

Mr Bannon was a key member of Trump’s team when the president fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and FBI director James Comey.

During the presidential campaign, Mr Bannon was also a liaison to its data-analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica.

Alexander Nix, the chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, met with the House Intelligence panel earlier this month. Nix faced questions about whether he sought material from WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that was stolen from computers of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, who managed Clinton’s presidential campaign.