Steve Bannon had a major slip-up during his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee

  • Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon spoke to two White House officials about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians when news of it first broke in July.
  • Bannon divulged the details while he was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
  • He realized immediately after that he had slipped up, because the White House told Bannon not to answer questions related to his work on the presidential transition team or in the White House.


Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon revealed Tuesday that he spoke to two White House officials and a legal spokesman about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with two Russian lobbyists in June 2016, Axios reported Wednesday. 

Bannon made the revelation while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, per the report. 

Initially citing executive privilege, Bannon refused to answer questions related to his work on the Trump transition team or the White House, at the reported direction of the White House counsel's office. The committee then subpoenaed him. 

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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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According to Axios, Bannon realized immediately after divulging details about his conversations with then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer, then-chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Trump legal team spokesman Mark Corallo that he had made a mistake, because they occurred while Bannon was serving as chief strategist in the White House.

The New York Times first reported on the Trump Tower meeting in July 2017. Shortly after the story broke, Bannon reportedly spoke about it to Spicer, Priebus, and Corallo. All three men resigned from their positions last year, and none responded to requests for comment.

Three key figures from Trump's orbit attended the meeting, which took place at the height of the presidential campaign: Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. They met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who lobbies aggressively against the 2012 Magnitsky Act, as well as former Soviet military intelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin. At least three others were also in attendance. 

According to author Michael Wolff's book, "Fire & Fury: Inside the Trump White House," Bannon called the Trump Tower meeting "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."

"Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s---, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately," Bannon was quoted saying.

He later clarified that he was criticizing Manafort, not Trump Jr., adding that Manafort should have known better than to meet with the Russians at the height of the campaign.

He also said, according to the book, that there was "zero" chance Trump Jr. did not introduce the lobbyists to Trump.

Trump and his lawyers denied any knowledge of the meeting. But the president attracted scrutiny last summer when The Washington Post reported that he "dictated" an initially misleading statement that Trump Jr. released in response to reports about the Trump Tower meeting.

The statement had to be amended several times after it emerged that Trump Jr. took the meeting after he was offered kompromat on then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." 

Congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller are said to be keenly focused on both the Trump Tower meeting, as well as Trump's role in crafting the misleading statement his son first released. 

The Washington Post also reported last year that Mueller was zeroing in on a circle of key Trump aides, including Spicer and Priebus. 

Each of the aides, The Post reported, was witness to critical discussions that have drawn Mueller's scrutiny. Those events include Trump's bombshell decision to fire FBI director James Comey in May, the administration's inaction after it was informed that former national security adviser Michael Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail, and Trump's role in drafting the statement about the meeting. 

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