Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

As Steve Bannon was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee word was leaked that Bannon has been served with a grand jury subpoena by Robert Mueller’s team. There was a hint last week in this report:

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has retained a top Washington lawyer to represent him in his closed-door interview with the House Intelligence Committee expected next week, a source confirmed to CNN.

William Burck, a former White House special counsel during the George W. Bush administration and a former federal prosecutor, is helping Bannon prepare for questions from the House panel about the presidential campaign, this source said. Burck is not representing Bannon before special counsel Robert Mueller or inquiries relating to Bannon’s work during the transition or days in the White House, according to the source.

Despite what the source said, it would seem that the decision to lawyer up had a lot more to do with receiving a subpoena than being interviewed by the House Intelligence Committee.

Via the New York Times:

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments.

And then we are treated to a smorgasbord of likely reasons for Bannon, alone among Trump’s inner circle, being called before a grand jury.

The subpoena could be a negotiating tactic. Mr. Mueller is likely to allow Mr. Bannon to forgo the grand jury appearance if he agrees to instead be questioned by investigators in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices in Washington, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case.

WTF? Really? Why would Mueller need to negotiate like this? It might be true but this seems a bit on the bizarre side.

Mr. Mueller issued the subpoena after Mr. Bannon was quoted in a new book criticizing Mr. Trump, saying that Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with Russians was “treasonous” and predicting that the special counsel investigation would ultimately center on money laundering.

This actually makes a bit of sense. As the last quarter of the article is on the book, I’m leaning towards this being the reason. Odds are the NYT was told why Bannon was called and told not to say and so they are setting up the “we told you so” narrative for later on.

Some legal experts said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was intensifying, while others said it may simply have been a negotiating tactic to persuade Mr. Bannon to cooperate with the investigation.

On the one hand, it could be this, on the other hand, it could be that. To paraphrase Harry Truman, what we need here is a one-armed lawyer.

“By forcing someone to testify through a subpoena, you are providing the witness with cover because they can say, ‘I had no choice — I had to go in and testify about everything I knew,’” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, a prosecutor for the independent counsel that investigated Bill Clinton when he was president.

After what’s happened to Bannon after the book being published, I’d think his best tack would be to be the guy who brought Trump down. Bannon has not only burned bridges with Trump, he’s torn up the roads, and plowed salt into the landscape.

So there it is. It looks like it could be anything you want it to be.