WASHINGTON: President Trump essentially excommunicated his onetime chief strategist, Stephen K Bannon, from his political circle on Wednesday, excoriating him as a self-promoting exaggerator who had “very little to do with our historic victory” and has now “lost his mind.”
In a written statement brimming with anger and resentment, Trump fired back at Bannon, who had made caustic comments about the president and his family to the author of a new book about the Trump White House. While Bannon had remained in touch with Trump even after being pushed out of the White House last summer, the two now appear to have reached a breaking point.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said in the statement. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Trump berated Bannon for the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama and said the former adviser did not represent his base but was “only in it for himself.” Rather than supporting the president’s agenda to “make America great again,” Bannon was “simply seeking to burn it all down,” Trump said.
“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,” he added. “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.”
The president was responding to comments attributed to Bannon in a new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff. The forthcoming book was obtained by The Guardian, which first reported Bannon’s jolting remarks.
In the book, Bannon was quoted suggesting that Donald Trump Jr., the future president’s son; Jared Kushner, his son-in-law; and Paul J Manafort, then the campaign chairman, had been “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for meeting with Russians offering incriminating information on Hillary Clinton during a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.
“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 after The New York Times revealed the meeting in July 2017, according to Mr. Wolff’s book.
“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 F.B.I. immediately,” Bannon continued, according to the book.
According to Wolff, Bannon also predicted that a special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any coordination with Trump aides would ultimately center on money laundering, an assessment that could lend credibility to an investigation the president has repeatedly called a witch hunt. “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon was quoted as saying.
Donald Trump Jr did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But he jabbed at Bannon on Twitter on Wednesday when he reposted a message noting that Alabama now had a Democratic senator. “Thanks Steve,” the younger Trump wrote. “Keep up the great work.”
Bannon helped propel Roy Moore to the Republican nomination in Alabama and then stuck by him after the candidate was accused of sexual misconduct with several young women as young as age 14. At Bannon’s urging, Trump decided to endorse Moore even after the allegations surfaced, only to be embarrassed when the Democrat, Doug Jones, won the election last year in a heavily Republican state that had not sent a Democrat to the Senate in a quarter-century.
Bannon, the architect of Trump’s nationalist and populist agenda, left the White House in August to return to the far-right Breitbart News. Bannon had said he planned to back a slew of candidates in Republican primaries this year to take down establishment incumbents he saw as insufficiently conservative, even if it clashed with Trump’s endorsements.