Steve Bannon, the architect of America’s hard-right turn by way of Donald Trump, has been asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in January. He could also end up on the wrong side of a defamation lawsuit after Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow seemed to admit that their attacks on Leigh Corfman were malicious.
“Bannon, who worked as Trump’s top strategist during the campaign and for several months in the White House, hasn’t been publicly accused of any wrongdoing,” Billy House notes at Bloomberg. But for those following Bannon’s career since he took over Breitbart News in 2012, this development may seem inevitable.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s first campaign manager, has received an identical request to appear for a voluntary, closed-door interview. Not only was Bannon the eventual campaign chief in the closing months of the race, he was also present at every stage of Trump’s path to the presidency.
Trump’s efforts to protect Michael Flynn, who has pleaded guilty to charges of lying to the FBI, are the subject of potential obstruction of justice charges against the president. Bannon practically inducted Flynn into the Trump camp.
Along with Jeff Sessions, Bannon shaped Trump’s foreign and domestic policy before the reality television star ever declared his candidacy. Gratified by Vladimir Putin’s embrace of right wing culture wars and Western conservatives, they were never a check on Trump’s embrace of Putin. If anything, they probably encouraged it.
Bannon clearly had an insider’s appreciation of Trump’s relationship to Russia. During the campaign, Bannon was pushing Paul Manafort out of his management position before news headlines about Ukrainian ledgers forced Trump to sideline him. Now indicted along with his business partner, Manafort has every reason to tattle on Bannon. During Trump’s first year in office, Bannon tried to leverage the Trump-Russia investigation against the president’s son in law Jared Kushner, his primary power rival in the administration. Who knows what Kushner may proffer in hopes of taking Bannon down with him?
As CEO of data firm Cambridge Analytica, Steve Bannon likely has intimate knowledge of how and why collusion happened, including its manifestations in social media. He was in regular contact with both Rebekah Mercer and Alexander Nix, so he had to know about their outreach to WikiLeaks. Even Breitbart, which apparently had a payola scheme with Trump from the beginning of his candidacy, has reportedly been scrutinized for Russian connections.
Rumors have persisted for months that Bannon was a subject of the special counsel’s grand jury investigation. However tepid the “invitation” for him to appear before the committee, it strongly suggests that Robert Mueller has already made any decisions. In other words, Steve Bannon could very well be the subject of a still-sealed indictment.
But that’s not the only reason why Bannon ought to be hiring lawyers now. The new year could potentially see his website get hit with a strong civil action.
In an interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources today, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow admitted that he believes Leigh Corfman’s story that Roy Moore molested her in 1977 when she was 14 and he was in his thirties. Marlow said that the website attacked Corfman’s credibility due to the implications for Donald Trump, who has been credibly accused of sexual harassment or assault by more than 20 women.
Despite being “personally uncomfortable” with Moore, Marlow explained that the website was counteracting a perceived “political playbook” from the Washington Post.
And I think it’s part of the reason why it was so important for Breitbart to continue our coverage of the way we covered it … and for Steve in particular to hold the line the way he did for – I think part of it is because it’s not just about Judge Moore, it is not even just about establishment, anti-establishment. It’s about what’s coming next for President Trump.
Instead of apologizing for his efforts to discredit Corfman, Marlow questioned the newspaper’s motive for publishing the stories of women who corroborated Moore’s interest in teenage girls during that period.
“Why The Washington Post chose to lump in a bunch of far, far, far lesser accusations immediately rose my suspicion that they were trying to set narrative more than they were just trying to report the story,” Marlow said, proving once and for all that legitimate journalism is a totally foreign concept at Breitbart. At the Post, Callum Borchers observes that “Marlow’s interview with [CNN] is one of the clearest indications that Breitbart, at its core, is more of an advocacy organization than a news outlet.”
In legal speak, Ms. Corfman now has a strong argument that Breitbart engaged in “actual malice” to defame her for political reasons. While there is no liberal answer to Peter Thiel’s successful legal warfare against Gawker.com, it is only a matter of time until the fast and loose pseudojournalism at Breitbart bites Steve Bannon right on his slovenly butt.
He should hire lawyers in the new year. Good ones. Lots of them.