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Bannon before House Intelligence Committee over Trump-Russia links amid escalating war with President

Closed-door session comes after very public spat provoked by publication of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury

Tuesday 16 January 2018 15:39 GMT
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Steve Bannon was among Donald Trump's closest confidants
Steve Bannon was among Donald Trump's closest confidants (Reuters)

Steve Bannon is in Washington DC to testify before members of Congress investigating alleged links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

The House Intelligence Committee is grilling the former White House chief strategist behind closed doors on Tuesday following his spectacular fall from power, during which he accused the President’s son and others of “treasonous” behaviour for taking a meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign.

The testimony comes just one week after a very public excommunication from Mr Trump’s closest confidants following the publication of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury.

In the book, Bannon accuses Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of “treasonous” behaviour for meeting with a group of Russian lawyers and lobbyists who they believed were ready to offer “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

More recently, Bannon has said he was not referring to Mr Trump Jr but rather to Manafort.

After the book’s release, Mr Trump quickly disavowed “Sloppy Steve Bannon” and argued extensively there was no evidence of collusion between his presidential campaign and operatives tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Trump said his former confidant had “lost his mind”.

Mr Bannon apologised a few days later, but was stripped of his job leading the pro-Trump website Breitbart News.

Last year he largely avoided the scrutiny of congressional investigators, who instead focussed much of their energy on trying to secure interviews with top witnesses like Mr Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

But Bannon played a critical role in the campaign, the presidential transition and the White House — all during times now under scrutiny from congressional investigators looking for possible evidence of a connection between Trump’s operations and Russia.

White House communications director Hope Hicks, who served as Mr Trump’s spokeswoman during his presidential campaign after a tenure with his Trump Organisation real estate business, is also expected to be questioned by the committee this week, according to a congressional source.

The House Intelligence Committee is speeding toward a conclusion of its interviews in its Russia investigation.

However, the final result could be marred by partisan infighting, which has some members discussing the probability that Republicans on the panel will issue one set of findings and the Democrats will issue their own report.

Democrats on the committee have accused Republicans of rushing to wrap up the probe to help give the President political cover, despite their requests to interview more witness. Republicans have denied the charge.

Mr Trump tweeted on Tuesday: “The Russian Collusion Hoax is dead, except as it pertains to the Dems. Public gets it!”

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