President Trump issued a lengthy and striking statement on Wednesday slamming his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, over comments that appear in an upcoming book about Trump’s first year in office.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” the statement read. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.” [restrict]
Bannon, the Breitbart chief executive who became Trump’s campaign chief in 2016 and his chief strategist in the White House, departed the White House in August. But Breitbart remained staunchly pro-Trump and Bannon said he remained in contact with the commander in chief. (Upon Bannon’s departure from the West Wing, Trump thanked “Steve for his service” in defeating Hillary Clinton.)
Bannon did not immediately respond to a request from Yahoo News for comment.
In his statement, Trump downplayed Bannon’s role in the campaign.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look,” Trump said. “Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”
“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” the president continued. “It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”
Trump added: “We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.”
The statement comes in response to Bannon’s comments in an upcoming book by Michael Wolff, “Fire and Fury,” which were published online Wednesday.
In one excerpt, published by the Guardian, Bannon reportedly told Wolff that the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who claimed to have compromising information on Hillary Clinton was beyond foolish.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon said, according to the excerpt published in the Guardian. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Bannon reportedly said that he believes Trump Jr. not only briefed his father on that meeting — he introduced the participants to the candidate.
“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” Bannon was quoted saying.
The Breitbart chief also predicted that the federal investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia will end badly for the president’s son.
“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon said in the excerpts published by the Guardian.
Trump has maintained he knew nothing about the infamous Trump Tower meeting.
In another excerpt, published by New York magazine, Wolff wrote that “almost everyone” in the Trump campaign was convinced he would not win the election.
“Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost,” Wolff wrote. “Melania was in tears — and not of joy.”
According to Wolff, the unexpected victory “set the stage for the chaos and dysfunction that have persisted throughout his first year in office.”
“The mistaken outcome trusted by everyone in Trump’s inner circle — that they would lose the election — wound up exposing them for who they really were,” Wolff wrote.
The White House released a pair of statements rebutting Wolff’s account.
“This book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. “Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad, desperate attempts at relevancy.”
“The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section,” Stephanie Grisham, communications director for first lady Melania Trump, said. “Mrs. Trump supported her husband’s decision to run for president and in fact encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.”
At Wednesday’s White House press briefing, Sanders said that Trump and Bannon last spoke in December, and that the president was furious when he heard about Bannon’s comments.
“I think furious, disgusted would probably certainly fit when you make such outrageous claims and completely false claims against the president, his administration, and his family.” [/restrict]