Former top advisor to President Trump, Steve Bannon, has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury as part of a special counsel’s probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
The New York Times, which cited a person with direct knowledge of the matter in its report, said it marked the first time Special Counsel Robert Mueller has used such a move against a member of Donald Trump’s inner circle.
A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment on the report.
Bannon recently had a public falling out with Trump over comments he made to Michael Wolff, author of ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’, in which he heavily criticised Donald Trump Jr’s meeting last year where he was offered documents as “part of Russia and it’s government’s support for Mr Trump″.
Trump reacted to the book in typical style, branding Bannon “sloppy Steve”.
Bannon replied with a grovelling apology:
Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. My support is also unwavering for the President and his agenda.
Bannon was fired by the White House in August and returned to the right-wing news website Breitbart News. He continued to speak with Trump and tried to promote the president’s agenda, reports Reuters.
But Trump accused Bannon of having “lost his mind” when news of his comments to Wolff surfaced earlier this month. Six days later, Bannon stepped down from his post as executive chairman at Breitbart News.
Mueller’s subpoena, which was issued last week, could be a pressure tactic to induce Bannon to cooperate fully with his investigation, the Times reported.
Separately on Tuesday, Bannon was meeting with the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. He is the latest high-profile figure to testify before the panel as part of its investigation into Russia interference in the US election.
Russia has denied meddling in the election and Trump has denied there was any collusion between his campaign and Moscow.
Later in the week, the panel will hear from former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who served as Trump’s spokeswoman during his presidential campaign after a tenure with his Trump Organization real estate business, is also expected to be questioned by the committee this week, according to a congressional source.
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.