Robert Mueller Set to Question Steve Bannon on Michael Flynn, James Comey

Steve Bannon arrives at a House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting, on January 16, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team wants to question former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon about the firings of national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James Comey, according to two people familiar with the investigation.

Bannon is set to interview with Mueller by the end of the month, these people say, as the special counsel’s investigation moves closer to President Donald Trump’s inner circle. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was a witness to the firing of Comey, was interviewed last week, the Justice Department confirmed Tuesday.

In addition to the Comey and Flynn firings, key issues from Bannon’s time in the White House are likely to include Trump’s decision to fire then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates and any pressure the President may have exerted on Sessions about the FBI investigation into Russia’s interference with the election.

Bannon’s attorney has said that his client will not be able to use the protections of executive privilege to dodge questions when he meets with Mueller’s team. Last week, Bannon infuriated lawmakers from both parties after he refused to answer questions before the House Intelligence Committee about his work during the presidential transition or in the West Wing.

From his early days in the administration, Bannon was wary about the Russia investigation seeping into operations in the West Wing. He had only been working as chief strategist for a few months when he began trying to avoid meetings and discussions that could one day wind up of interest to investigators in the various Russia probes, according to sources familiar with the situation.

But his efforts to shield himself fell short.

Bannon was a key force in lobbying Trump to bring on attorney Marc Kasowitz and spokesman Mark Corallo as his first legal team that wrangled with Russia issues, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. But it took months for the administration to stand up its current structure of lawyers, both inside and outside the White House, to handle the daily deluge of Russia revelations.

In the meantime, Bannon and other top administration officials — including former chief of staff Reince Priebus and current White House counsel Don McGahn — sometimes found themselves racing from the West Wing to the residence to huddle with the President about emerging developments in the Russia investigation.

While Bannon may not have played a pivotal role in some of the key decisions that are raising alarms with investigators, even his knowledge of the President’s mindset at the time could come into play.

Bannon was largely cut out of the President’s decision to fire Comey, a key element of Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation. Since leaving the White House, Bannon has publicly slammed the move, referring to it as the biggest mistake in modern political history in a September 2017 interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” But Bannon could still provide insight into internal White House deliberations and Trump’s state of mind as critical events like this unfolded.

Even before his tenure in the White House, Bannon had been privy to a number of meetings and decisions that could be of interest to the special counsel and congressional investigators.

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SOURCE: CNN, Sara Murray, Kara Scannell and Marshall Cohen