Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, has agreed to answer questions from prosecutors on the Russian election meddling investigation, it has been reported.
Mr Bannon was going to be legally forced to testify before a grand jury, but has now reportedly struck a deal where he will just speak to investigators led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel tasked with getting to the bottom of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election.
The reported agreement means he will be able to answer questions in a less daunting setting but suggests he is willing to give details about his time in the White House.
It comes after reports emerged on Tuesday that Mr Bannon had been subpoenaed by the investigation into Russian election meddling, a legal device to force someone to give testimony.
The move had been widely viewed as a tactic to persuade Mr Bannon, who was at the heart of the Trump administration for several months, to give evidence to Mr Mueller’s investigators.
It also suggests that Mr Mueller’s investigation is a long way from reaching a conclusion, despite the White House’s claims to the contrary.
Separately, Mr Bannon was giving evidence to the House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee on Tuesday behind closed doors on the same topic. However, he refused to answer a broad array of queries due to an alleged gagging order imposed by the White House following his departure.
"This was effectively a gag order by the White House," Mr Schiff Adam Schiff , the top Democrat on the committee, said shortly after Mr Bannon’s interview concluded. Mr Schiff said the committee planned to call him back for a second interview.
A spokeswoman for Mr Bannon did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Tuesday afternoon.
At the White House, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no one had encouraged Mr Bannon not to be transparent during questioning.
"As with all congressional inquiries touching upon the White House, Congress must consult with the White House prior to obtaining confidential material. This is part of a judicially recognized process that goes back decades," she added.
A White House official said the president did not seek to formally exert executive privilege over Mr Bannon – a move that would have barred him from answering certain questions.
"We witnessed today what I believe was the most aggressive effort by the White House thus far to obstruct our efforts to seek the truth."@RepSwalwell reacts to Steve Bannon's refusal to answer questions at the W.H.'s direction during his 9.5-hour under-oath testimony. #LastWord pic.twitter.com/TmUVKm3hXL
— The Last Word (@TheLastWord) January 17, 2018
Mr Bannon, the former executive chairman at Breitbart News, the right-wing website, was Mr Trump’s election campaign chief for the final few months before the vote.
He is credited with turning round Mr Trump’s fortunes and securing an improbable victory by doubling down on Mr Trump’s nationalistic campaign messages.
Profile | Steve Bannon
However, the pair fell out spectacularly in the new year after Mr Bannon was quoted at length criticising Mr Trump’s family members in the book Fire and Fury: Inside the White House.
In particular, Mr Bannon’s criticism of a controversial Trump Tower meeting between senior campaign aides and Russian-linked figures before the election infuriated the president.
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According to the book a Trump Tower meeting between senior campaign aides and Russian-linked figures before the election was set up after Mr Trump’s son, Donald Jr, was told that the Russians may have dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Mr Trump publicly attacked Mr Bannon after the comments came to light. "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind," he said.