Ex-Trump adviser Bannon subpoenaed in special counsel Russia probe

WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon has been subpoenaed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury in a probe into alleged ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

It was the first time Mueller is known to have used a subpoena against a member of Trump's inner circle, the Times said. It cited a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

A spokesman for Mueller's office declined comment. Bill Burck, a lawyer for Bannon, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bannon, a champion of Trump's "America First" agenda, was among the Republican's closest aides during the 2016 election campaign, the presidential transition and during his first months in office.

But the pair had a bitter public falling out over comments Bannon made to author Michael Wolff for his recent book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."

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US President Donald Trump (L) congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing-in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House on January 22, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R), is joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, as he speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 28, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "Very early in the Trump administration, weekends were as busy as weekdays. On Trump's second Saturday the official schedule said he would be making private phone calls to a number of world leaders including Russia's Vladimir Putin. I arrived early and, before sitting down at my desk walked up to Press Secretary Sean Spicer's office. He, too, was just taking his coat off. I gingerly made the suggestion that previous administrations had sometimes allowed photos of such phone calls through the Oval Office windows on the colonnade. To my mild shock, he didn't even think about it twice. "We'll do it!" he said. In truth, I really only expected the Putin call, but we were outside the windows multiple times throughout the day as the calls went on."

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to chief strategist Steve Bannon during a swearing in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 22, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Trump advisers Steve Bannon (L) and Jared Kushner (R) listen as U.S. President Donald Trump meets with members of his Cabinet at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (C) and campaign CEO Steve Bannon (R) listen to National Park Service Interpretive Park Ranger Caitlin Kostic (2nd R) on a brief visit to Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. October 22, 2016.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. President Donald Trump (L-R), joined by Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Mike Pence, senior advisor Steve Bannon, Communications Director Sean Spicer and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, speaks by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. President Donald Trump signs a memorandum to security services directing them to defeat the Islamic State in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 28, 2017. Pictured with him are White House senior advisor Steve Bannon (L-R), National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Vice President Mike Pence, Deputy National Security Advisor K. T. McFarland, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, National Security Council Chief of Staff Keith Kellogg and senior advisor Kellyanne Conway.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Trump advisor Steve Bannon (L) watches as US President Donald Trump greets Elon Musk, SpaceX and Tesla CEO, before a policy and strategy forum with executives in the State Dining Room of the White House February 3, 2017 in Washington, DC.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Senior Advisor Jared Kusher, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and President Donald Trump arrive at the start of a meeting with Senate and House legislators, in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. Lawmakers included in the meeting were Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA).

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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In the book, Bannon is quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting between Trump associates, including the president's son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer, as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."

The meeting came after Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email that the Russian government had compromising information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to which he replied: "I love it."

Bannon was fired by the White House in August and returned to the right-wing news website Breitbart News. He continued to speak with Trump and tried to promote the president's agenda.

But Trump accused Bannon of having "lost his mind" when news of his comments to Wolff surfaced earlier this month. Six days later, Bannon stepped down from his post as executive chairman at Breitbart News.

Mueller's subpoena, which was issued last week, could be a pressure tactic to induce Bannon to cooperate fully with his investigation, the Times reported.

Separately on Tuesday, Bannon was meeting with the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. He is the latest high-profile figure to testify before the panel as part of its investigation into Russia interference in the U.S. election.

Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has denied there was any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.

Later in the week, the panel will hear from former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who served as Trump's spokeswoman during his presidential campaign after a tenure with his Trump Organization real estate business, is also expected to be questioned by the committee this week, according to a congressional source.

Democrats on the committee have accused Republicans of rushing to wrap up the probe to help give the president political cover, despite their requests to interview more witness. Republicans have denied the charge. (Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, David Alexander and Karen Freifeld. Writing by Warren Strobel.; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

 

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