WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, will be interviewed by investigators working for the special counsel in the Russia investigation instead of testifying before a grand jury, according to a person familiar with the matter, a sign that Mr. Bannon is cooperating with the inquiry.
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, had subpoenaed Mr. Bannon to appear before a grand jury this week. But Mr. Bannon has agreed to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s investigation and will be interviewed in the less formal setting of the special counsel’s offices in downtown Washington.
It was not clear why Mr. Mueller subpoenaed Mr. Bannon and did not first ask him to sit for an interview, as Mr. Mueller had done with more than a dozen current and former White House officials who were questioned in recent months. Mr. Mueller could still call Mr. Bannon to appear before a grand jury after he meets with investigators.
Legal experts have said the subpoena could be a sign that the investigation was accelerating, while others said it may have simply been a negotiating tactic to force Mr. Bannon to quickly agree to be interviewed.
The subpoena was served after Mr. Bannon was quoted in the new book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” criticizing the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and predicting that Mr. Mueller’s investigation will ultimately center on money laundering.
Mr. Bannon is still under subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee, which took the unusual step of subpoenaing him as he was being interviewed by its members on Tuesday. He had refused to answer several questions about Mr. Trump, saying the White House had told him to assert executive privilege.
Committee members of both parties were angered by Mr. Bannon’s lack of cooperation during his 10 hours of testimony, and Democrats said that the White House had used executive privilege as a “gag order” to stop Mr. Bannon from talking about the president. The lawmakers would like Mr. Bannon to return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to respond to the questions he refused to answer. But Mr. Bannon’s lawyer told the committee that Mr. Bannon would not be appearing before the panel this week because there is not enough time to work out executive privilege issues with the White House.
CNN first reported on Wednesday that Mr. Mueller would forgo Mr. Bannon’s grand jury appearance.
Also on Wednesday, a status hearing for George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., was postponed for up to 90 days. Mr. Papadopoulos is cooperating with Mr. Mueller’s inquiry while awaiting sentencing.
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