Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE is “clearly obstructing justice” and should be fired if he does not produce documents sought by Congress, President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon has told The Hill.
Trump should order Rosenstein to turn over all documents sought from the Department of Justice within 72 hours, Bannon said.
“If he doesn’t do it in 72 hours, he’s fired. I’d fire him.”
Bannon spoke to The Hill on Wednesday, amid a renewed press from Trump and his allies to strike back against the legal challenges confronting the president.
Conservatives in the House threatened to impeach Rosenstein last week before pulling back on the effort after Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE (R-Wis.) announced his opposition. It was clear the group did not have the votes to win an impeachment vote on the floor, but it is possible they will return to the issue in September — or push to hold Rosenstein in contempt if documents are not provided to Congress.
On Wednesday, the president caused an uproar with a tweet calling on Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThose predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold The metaverse is coming — society should be wary MORE to “stop this rigged Witch Hunt right now” — a reference to the probe led by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE.
Critics said the tweet itself could be considered part of an effort by the president to obstruct justice.
Bannon, a controversial figure who left the White House a year ago and was derided by Trump after the publication of Michael Wolff’s exposé “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” insisted that there would eventually be a commission set up to look at anti-Trump malfeasance by intelligence agencies during the initial investigations — codenamed "Crossfire Hurricane" — into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
The president’s allies have long alleged that the investigation has been marked by bias, pointing to examples such as text messages between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.
But the Mueller investigation has already resulted in more than 30 people being indicted. Five of those people have pleaded guilty. The first trial to result from the probe — that of former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortYellen should utilize the resources available before pushing new regulations Huawei paid Tony Podesta 0K for White House lobbying FBI agents swarm Russian oligarch's DC home MORE — has just begun.
Bannon, who sees himself as one of Trump’s true believers despite the turbulence between the two men, does not appear to share the view that Mueller should be removed, however.
In contrast to the president’s rhetoric, Bannon called Mueller “a good man, a combat-veteran Marine.”
Bannon said the probe should be “brought to a conclusion” and that there was “obviously no collusion” — but suggested that Mueller should issue a report before the midterm elections, which could then be released to the public.
“Let the American people, on Nov. 6, let them decide,” Bannon insisted, referring to the midterms. “They are going to say that is too thin a reed to hang anything serious on.”
Asked about Trump’s explosive tweet about Sessions, Bannon said: “I think the president’s just expressing his frustration.”
Recent weeks have seen escalating attacks from Trump’s legal and political allies — including his lawyer Rudy Giuliani — on Mueller.
The ferocity of those attacks — and some shifting storylines, such as Giuliani’s new insistence in television interviews that collusion is not a crime — have fueled speculation that Trump could be feeling under pressure.
Bannon would not be drawn on whether collusion is a crime, and offered a wry assessment of the former New York City mayor's efforts.
“I love me some Rudy, but I understand Rudy has good appearances and some maybe that are not of the [same] Rudy quality,” he said.
In any event, he insisted, Team Trump’s pushback against Mueller “is definitely not an admission of guilt. I think it’s an admission of frustration.”
Bannon expressed similar insouciance about Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime fixer who is reportedly willing to tell Mueller that Trump knew in advance about a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.
A Russian lawyer attended that meeting along with Donald Trump Jr.Don TrumpHow Trump uses fundraising emails to remain undisputed leader of the GOP Donald Trump Jr. joins Cameo Book claims Trump family members were 'inappropriately' close with Secret Service agents MORE, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerWatchdog finds no money has flowed out of agency tasked by Trump admin to fight pandemic Watchdog cites 13 Trump officials who violated Hatch Act before 2020 election McCain blasts Graham for refuting funeral remark about Kushner, Ivanka Trump MORE and Manafort.
Bannon said he had “known Michael for years” but not well.
“When I first took over the [Trump] campaign, I was pretty direct with him that there couldn’t be any involvement in the campaign, and he really shouldn’t be down on the 14th floor,” Bannon said, referring to the campaign’s offices within Trump Tower.
Bannon explained this decision by asserting that he didn’t want more “intermingling” than necessary between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Trump Organization.
Still, asked if he thought Trump might have been told about the Trump Tower meeting in advance, Bannon responded, “No, not at all.”
Bannon for now insists the focus should stay on Rosenstein and the Department of Justice.
“There is a cover-up right now,” he contended.
More details from Bannon’s interview with The Hill will be published later today.