In an explosive and revealing new interview for the highly anticipated book by Michael Wolff on the Trump White House, Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to the president and current CEO of Breitbart News, suggested that a June 2016 meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was "treasonous."
Specifically, Bannon expressed ire over the president's son, Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, taking a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who has ties to the Kremlin, with the hopes of obtaining documents promised by an intermediary that would "incriminate" Trump's political opponent, Hillary Clinton.
"The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers," Bannon recalled.
He continued, "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."
Bannon, in Wolff's book "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," issued a warning to the Trump administration that the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election would focus on money laundering. He was particularly blunt about Trump Jr., and how he would be treated by the media.
"They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV," he predicted.
The meeting was first reported by the New York Times, which resulted in Trump Jr. saying that there was no consequential material or documents produced from the encounter.
This revelation from Bannon, if true, is a big deal for many reasons.
For one, what did Bannon know when he signed up for the Trump campaign in August 2016 and when did he know it? What was his role in the investigation when Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort were questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team, or even congressional investigators, for that matter? And was there any collusion or meetings that took place under Bannon's tenure with the Trump campaign?
We may not know any of those answers for some time. However, if what he said is accurate, then this is the ultimate power move by Bannon to solidify himself as a political figure after leaving the White House. It creates a degree of separation between him and President Trump in the Russia investigation. He can say he might prop up bad candidates (i.e. Donald Trump, Roy Moore, etc.), but at least he didn't collude with America's archnemesis in Russia. His hands, as of now, are clean in all of this.
After weeks and months of the investigation, there's finally a crack in the ceiling. There's a there there, big or small, and not even Bannon is willing to ignore it.