Everyone focused on the wrong quote by Steve Bannon, who is testifying today before the House Intelligence Committee, in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury.” People wanted to talk about Bannon’s insult of Donald Trump Jr., whom he said had been “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” in trying tap the Russian government – through a meeting with someone who had been described as a Russian government attorney – to dig up dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Treasonous? Probably not. Unpatriotic? I’d say so. Imagine if we found out the Obama campaign had met with the Russians to scoop out dirt on Mitt Romney or John McCain.
But this is probably not what President Trump cared about in attacking Bannon as much as he did this statement by Bannon to the author:
This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose Andrew Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner.
The comment about the meeting being treasonous could be easily characterized by Bannon to investigators as a personal opinion. But money laundering is not an opinion. It suggests Bannon knows something or had heard something, and the Intel Committee, and eventually Special Prosecutor Mueller, will want to know what animated Bannon’s statement.
I do not believe Bannon is going to try to get retribution on either Trump or Kushner. Despite having his career destroyed – albeit most likely temporarily – by Trump as a result of Bannon’s own statements in the book, Bannon remains committed to the populist-nationalist cause and knows Trump is the only instrument for advancing it. And he also knows that if he becomes the “rat” who helps take down Trump, he will never get back into a leadership position among the Republican base. Nor, of course, would he ever get back into good graces with Trump, which remains possible.
The problem for Trump is, what if Bannon knows something and feels he would perjure himself not to tell?