News & Politics

Steve Bannon Testifies Before the House Intelligence Committee

Will Democrats press the former Trump adviser over his money laundering allegations?

Photo Credit: Screenshot / YouTube

Steve Bannon will appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning, supposedly to answer questions about his role in Trump’s campaign and any connection to Russian operatives. This comes after Bannon first described the meeting at Trump Tower between Trump’s top campaign staff and a group of Russian representatives as both “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”—and then went on to explain how to do secret meetings with the Russians correctly.

Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.

Did Bannon follow up on these oddly specific thoughts? We won’t know right offhand, because today’s interview will be another of those held behind closed doors. Which is a real shame, not only because of the way that Congress has consistently shielded Trump insiders from public scrutiny, but also because this is the first time Bannon has testified before any group. Is Steve Bannon a tight-mouthed witness who has to be led to each point, or a babbler who just can’t help letting everything out in a rush? Evidence suggests the later.

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But keeping Bannon’s testimony locked up means that Republicans will be able to do what they’ve done in every interview—spend their time looking for ways to attack the witness and demean the investigation while asking not one question related to the erstwhile topic of the investigation. It also means they’ll be able to selectively leak out of context snippets from the interview to create a Trump-supporting narrative, no matter what actually gets said in chambers. 

On the other hand, Democrats are likely to ask Bannon about this:

"You realize where this is going. ... This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose (senior prosecutor Andrew) Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy," Bannon is quoted as saying in Wolff's book. "Their path to f***ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner. ... It's as plain as a hair on your face."

The money-laundering quote from Bannon backs up evidence that not only has Trump depended heavily on a secret flow of cash ...

More than one-fifth of Donald Trump’s US condominiums have been purchased since the 1980s in secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.

And that this cash flow is critical to the investigation of Trump–Russia …

The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

Did Bannon have inside information on this topic, or was he only connecting that rather obvious dots that had been tied together by the Financial Times, Business Insider, Bloomberg, and others who have bothered to take more than a cursory look into Trump’s finances? That’s a topic likely to be touched on by Democrats when they get the chance to ask questions actually connected to Trump and Russia.

Of course, when it comes to any public release of this information, Republicans could continue to sit on it for months. In fact, they could—and likely will—camp on the full transcript until the end of their “investigation,” at which time a summary of Bannon’s statements will be added to their final report.

If the public is going to get a real view of what’s been said anytime soon, someone on the House side will have to pull a Feinstein

 

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Mark Sumner is the author of the nonfiction work "The Evolution of Everything" as well as several novels including "Devil's Tower."