The Russiagate investigation took a new turn today as Robert Mueller issued a grand jury subpoena to Steve Bannon even as Bannon was slapped with a subpoena by the House Intelligence Committee when he refused to answer questions during his questioning by the Committee. Said refusal was purportedly at the direction of the White House. While the Mueller subpoena suggests that Bannon is not a target in the investigation, it ups the risk to Bannon should he refuse to cooperate or answer questions. Should he refuse to testify to the grand jury, he would face contempt charges. Should he lie to the grand jury, he would be guilty of perjury and the consequences could be even worse. One can only hope that Bannon will decide that it is in his best interest to cooperate and, if need be, throw Trump and others on the White House staff under the bus. In short, self-preservation should motivate Bannon to "do the right thing" and testify fully. Here are excerpts from the New York Times on this development:
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.
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 about ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia and about the president’s conduct in office, according to the person, who would not be named discussing the case.
The subpoena is a sign that Mr. Bannon is not personally the focus of the investigation. Justice Department rules allow prosecutors to subpoena the targets of investigations only in rare circumstances.
On Tuesday, Mr. Bannon testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Mr. Bannon did not address reporters before entering the proceeding on Tuesday, and a spokesman for Mr. Mueller and a senior White House lawyer did not respond to messages seeking comment.
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. The experts also said it could be a signal to Mr. Bannon, who has tried to publicly patch up his falling-out with the president, that despite Mr. Trump’s legal threats, Mr. Bannon must be completely forthcoming with investigators.
“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.
Significant grand jury activity may undermine the case that White House officials have made for months: that they believe the inquiry is coming to an end and are convinced that the president will be cleared. Mr. Mueller has told Mr. Trump’s lawyers that he will probably want to question the president before the investigation concludes, but no interview has been scheduled.
Mr. Bannon has limited firsthand knowledge about two key issues within Mr. Mueller’s purview — the president’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, a decision made without Mr. Bannon present, and the drafting of a misleading statement about the subject of the June 2016 meeting with Russians, in which they promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
But even Mr. Bannon’s secondhand knowledge could be used to draw a contrast with statements from people with firsthand knowledge whom Mr. Mueller has already interviewed. And Mr. Bannon was directly involved in a number of other major moments, including the decision-making around the firing of Michael T. Flynn . . . And Mr. Bannon was the chief executive of the Trump campaign in October 2016 when WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of stolen personal emails from the hacked account of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta.
In “Fire and Fury,” Mr. Bannon was quoted by the author, Michael Wolff, as suggesting that Donald Trump Jr.; the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner; and Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman at the time, were “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for attending the meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. Mr. Bannon said that he believed there was “zero” chance that the younger Mr. Trump did not take them to meet his father, who has said he knew nothing about the meeting.
The president appeared to ease his anger toward Mr. Bannon at the end of last week. People close to Mr. Bannon took the president’s comments as a signal that Mr. Trump was aware that his fired strategist would soon be contacted by investigators.
Mr. Bannon has hired William A. Burck of the Washington office of the Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan law firm to represent him in the defamation threats from Mr. Trump and the congressional inquiries.