Politics

Steve Bannon On “Treasonous” Trump Jr. Meeting

Since Steve Bannon resigned from the White House in August, or was forced out by all accounts, he has gone full force, attacking his least favorite characters in the President’s administration.

Trump Jr. Meeting
By Don Irvine (Steve Bannon) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Steve Bannon’s criticisms have expanded beyond his usual targets towards Donald Trump Jr. In an interview for Michael Wolff’s new book about the Trump administration “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Bannon, no longer a member of the White House staff, apparently did not shy away from commenting on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion in the 2016 election, specifically the now infamous Trump Jr. meeting.  

In June 2016, three senior officials from the Trump campaign allegedly met with well known Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

According to reports, Donald Jr. agreed to the meeting after having been informed by a British music producer, Rob Goldstone, that he knew of some Russian intelligence that “would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Trump Junior’s response? “I love it.”

The Meeting

The June 2016 Trump Jr. meeting, which took place at Trump Tower, was meant to produce evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation. Also present at the meeting were some of Bannon’s least favorite characters, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. Manafort was indicted in October for money laundering and lobbying on behalf of the Ukrainian government under President Yanukovych, charges which are believed to have taken place before his involvement in the 2016 election.

In a 51 page long statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Veselnitskaya argues that she never had such information and never promised to produce it at the so-called Trump Jr. meeting.

In the meeting with the Trump campaign officials, she claims that her intention was a congressional investigation into the Magnitsky act, which laid down sanctions against Russia. Veselnitskaya insists that there was no discussion of Russian interference into the election, blaming Goldstone for the misunderstanding, “Today, I understand why it took place to begin with and why it ended so quickly with a feeling of mutual disappointment and time wasted. The answer lies in the roguish letters of Mr. Goldstone.”

In His Own Words

Through his comments, Bannon seems less concerned about the fact that the Trump Jr. meeting occurred at all, and more concerned over the way the meeting was held, “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.”

According to Bannon, such an illicit meeting should have instead been held “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people.” He suggests that the information could have then been passed on to his own Breitbart News, or in his own words, to “some other more legitimate publication.”

In the interview, Bannon does insist that if the Trump campaign felt such evidence existed against the Clintons, they should have immediately contacted the FBI rather than holding a semi-clandestine meeting with a lawyer connected to the Kremlin, “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s–t, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

His Favorite Targets

Since leaving the White House, Bannon has returned to his post as executive chairman for Breitbart News Network, which he has weaponized against his least favorite figures within the Trump administration, most often Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner. Breitbart routinely publishes articles meant to attack Kushner, even going as far as to imply that Kushner has business ties to George Soros, one of Breitbart’s and the international Right’s favorite boogeymen. This week, Breitbart prominently featured a story titled, “Mr. Perfect Stumbles into 2018: Lowlights from Jared’s First Year in WH.” Breitbart is likewise critical of Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump.

In the Wolff interview, Bannon also shared his insights into the Mueller investigation. Bannon believes that Special Counsel Mueller is focusing on money laundering as the crux of his probe, “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. 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.”

Bannon claims the Mueller probe will eventually pull Kushner in, “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner s–t. The Kushner s–t is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”

Bannon, always one to enjoy highlighting the perceived weakness of other men, does not believe Donald Jr. will be able to stand the pressures of the investigation, “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”

Treason?

On leaving the White House, Bannon insisted that he still supports President Trump and his agenda. All things considered, one might assume that the former White House Senior Strategist and close advisor to the President couldn’t have made such bold accusations in the right state of mind, however, Bannon’s outlet, Breitbart News, has publicized the interview with Wolff. As of Wednesday, they have featured two articles about the interview on their homepage, raising some serious questions. Are Steve Bannon’s accusations of treason and money laundering accurate? Or is he just bitter after being forced out of the White House? How does Breitbart News stand to benefit from publishing these articles? Or does the news outlet serve only as the bully pulpit for their charismatic leader?   

Bannon, now a household name, served as campaign chairman following Manafort’s August 2016 ouster. Although Bannon is considered somewhat of a loose cannon, accusations of treason from a senior campaign official can hardly be taken lightly. Former campaign chairman and later campaign manager Paul Manafort now faces a number of charges including Conspiracy Against the United States. Manafort has pled not guilty.