The special counsel looking into possible Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, Robert Mueller, has subpoenaed Stephen Bannon to testify before a grand jury.
Bannon was an important figure in the Donald Trump campaign (he was named its CEO in August 2016), then again in the transition period, as well as the early months of Trump’s presidency. In the latter capacity, he worked in the White House under the nebulous title “Chief Strategist” until mid- August, when he quit (or was fired) as part of the fall-out from a white nationalists’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
After his departure from that official role, he moved to set himself up as an unofficial leader of Trumpism as a movement, supportive but independent of its namesake President. In that cause he lent his name and strategic vision to the campaign of Judge Roy Moore for a seat in the U.S. Senate from Alabama. Moore lost, the Republican Party’s majority in the U.S. Senate narrowed, becoming indeed as narrow as arithmetic allows a ‘majority’ to be, and Bannon’s reputation went into eclipse.
Statements by Bannon, quoted in Michael Wolff’s recently published palace-intrigue book Fire and Fury, may have helped pique Mueller’s interest.
Right Wing View
Bannon was also, until quite recently, the executive chairman of Breitbart News. His comments as quoted in Wolff’s book effectively drove him from that post. So Breitbart is a natural place to begin this survey of reaction to Mueller’s subpoena.
Kristina Wong writes Breitbart’s story on this development. She stresses that the issuance of the special counsel’s subpoena means that Bannon himself is probably not a target of the investigation, since “Justice Department rules allow prosecutors to subpoena targets only in rare circumstances.”
Wong ends on a hopeful interpersonal note. Although after publication of Wolff’s book Trump was angry at Bannon, she says, “he has since indicated that his anger may not be permanent.”
A very different conservative website, Red State, shows some sympathy for Bannon and none for Trump is their respective present circumstances. Red State writer Susan Wright said that Bannon “may not need that much coaxing” to dish dirt. “When Trump got news of the book, he and all his minions turned on Bannon and treated him worse than garbage.”
Some conservatives sympathetic to Bannon make the observation that the subpoena gives Bannon ‘cover’ to say what he may want to say, while clear of the taint of having ratted out the President or his close associates. After all, he was subpoenaed, he didn’t volunteer anything!
Lou Dobbs tweets, “End the Witch Hunt Now!” and says the subpoena is part of a “desperate attempt to keep the … Russia collusion hoax alive!”
Left Wing View
Tom Steyer tweets out one common view, on the left, regarding this subpoena. “The American people are going to get answers one way or another.”
Their reporter “Betsy Woodruff” cites “a person familiar with the situation” as saying that “Mueller will hear everything Bannon has to say.” That would be one of the “ways” Steyer has in mind in which people might get answers about Russia.
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) tweeted that “Former Trump officials Flynn & Papadopoulos already flipped and are cooperating with Mueller. Now Steve Bannon will talk to Mueller under penalty of perjury, after Trump and the White House abandoned him.” Trump and his high level associates should, Lieu said, be very worried.
Much left-of-center commentary expects (and hopes) that Bannon’s testimony to the grand jury will stay within the lines of his statements in the Wolff book, which were damning of important administration officials in important respects. That describes, for example, the hope and expectation that Lieu expressed on Joy Reid’s television program.