Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s second interview before the House intelligence committee has been delayed.
Democratic and Republican members on the committee had said Bannon would be interviewed behind closed doors Wednesday. But one of the people familiar with the decision says it was premature to schedule a second interview because discussions with the White House over what Bannon can tell the committee have only just started.
Earlier this month, Bannon refused to answer questions about his time in the Trump administration at the direction of the White House counsel’s office.
It was widely speculated that Bannon was going to blow the whistle on Jared Kushner. This is what he said to Michael Wolff in “Fire And Fury.” Vox:
Bannon was unequivocal about one thing. As the Russia story unfolds, he advised reporters, keep your eye on Kushner.
Indeed, throughout Fire and Fury, Wolff’s sources paint Kushner as perhaps the driving force behind Comey’s firing. For instance:
Kushner, ever mindful of his father’s collision with the Justice Department, was especially agitated by Comey’s increasing focus on the White House. Doing something about Comey became a Kushner theme. What can we do about him? was a constant question. And it was one he kept raising with the president.
Bannon himself is later quoted speculating that Kushner’s family real estate company could be vulnerable to money laundering charges. “The Kushner shit is greasy,” he says. Later, he elaborates:
“Charlie Kushner,” said Bannon, smacking his head again in additional disbelief. “He’s going crazy because they’re going to get down deep in his shit about how he’s financed everything. … The rabbis with the diamonds and all the shit coming out of Israel … and all these guys coming out of Eastern Europe … all these Russian guys … and guys in Kazakhstan. … And he’s frozen on 666 [Fifth Avenue], when it goes under next year, the whole thing’s cross-collateralized … he’s wiped, he’s gone, he’s done, it’s over. … Toast.”
Getting mauled by Steve Bannon might not be the worst thing to happen to the president’s son-in-law this week. He and Ivanka were sued by a private attorney for failing to disclose assets from 30 investment funds on their federal financial disclosure forms. Perhaps more ominous for Kushner, and according to the New York Times, federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank records about the Kushner family’s real estate business. “There is no indication that the subpoena is related to the investigation being conducted by Robert S. Mueller III,” the Times allowed. Yeah, but wouldn’t you want to be there when Mueller’s team invites Bannon in to talk to him about the Vanity Fair article, and they ask him, “What did you mean about Jared taking meetings with Russians to get additional stuff? Like, what stuff?”
Although people close to Kushner, who decline to be named told the Times they don’t think the Mueller investigation exposes him to legal jeopardy, the young prince isn’t taking chances. The Washington Post reports that his lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has been shopping for a “crisis public relations firm” over the past two weeks. (Senator Robert Menendez, the recent beneficiary of a deadlocked corruption trial, is another Lowell client.)
Why hire super flacks now? Does Kushner sense disaster? Another Bannon offensive? The Flynn plea bargain exposed him—according to the press—as the “very senior member” of the Trump transition team described in court documents who told former national security adviser Michael Flynn to lobby the Russian ambassador about a U.N. resolution on Israeli settlements. Maybe he’s just buying reputation insurance. Or maybe he’s taken to heart Chris Christie’s scathing comments. Christie was squeezed out of the Trump transition early on, some say by Kushner who is said to hold a grudge against Christie who, when he was federal prosecutor, put Kushner’s father in jail. This week Christie said Kushner “deserves the scrutiny” he’s been getting. It was almost as if Christie and Bannon were operating a twin-handled grinder, cranking out an extra helping of Kushner’s tainted reputation.
Bannon has plenty to say, there’s no question about that and the “executive privilege” ruse is not going to fly. Mueller’s team will unquestionably be asking more about when Kushner, Flynn and Bannon were in the Middle East selling nuclear reactors, and when Erik Prince was an unofficial member of the Trump transition team having a private meeting in the Seychelles with a representative of Vladimir Putin, while Jared was of a mind to get a secret back channel communication to the Kremlin set up — among other things.
Wonder what the delay’s about and how long will it last before Bannon gets a chance to spill the beans?