Bannon criticizes Trump campaign meetings with Russia

In a new interview, the former chief strategist also talks DACA and "Billy Bush weekend."

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon waits for the start of a rally for President Donald Trump Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon waits for the start of a rally for President Donald Trump Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon criticized the members of the Trump campaign who took meetings with Russians in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.

Twice in the interview, which aired in two parts on 60 Minutes and The Charlie Rose Show, Bannon references meetings members of the campaign took in an effort to get information on former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton. In both instances, Bannon brings up the “meetings” without being asked, according to a transcript of the full interview obtained by ThinkProgress.

“You know, I don’t know why people had to have meetings with other countries. I thought there was more than enough there,” Bannon says when he is asked by Rose about the “lock her up” chants that became popular at Trump rallies during the campaign.

Later in the interview, Rose asks Bannon what kind of impact he thinks James Comey had on Trump’s win.

“Totally, totally irrelevant,” Bannon says. “[Comey] maybe reinforced a little bit her corruption, but it was irrelevant, the emails.”

All the campaign needed was “Clinton Cash,” Bannon says several times in the interview, referencing a mostly debunked book Bannon helped produce that alleges corruption in the Clinton family and foundation.

“It was Clinton Cash and I think the greed and the banality of the Clintons that were much bigger,” Bannon says. “So you don’t need these meetings, these meetings these guys took. You don’t need meetings. You had all the information you needed.”

The most infamous of the meetings is the meeting Donald Trump Jr. took with a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the summer of 2016.

The meeting with the “Russian government attorney” was first reported by The New York Times in June and was attended by Trump Jr. as well as the president’s son-in-law and now senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions also twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but Sessions failed to list those meetings on his original security clearance form.

Bannon’s interview with Rose was wide-ranging, but throughout the interview, Bannon paints Trump as a victim of those who have given the president poor advice or been disloyal to him, speaking at length about what Bannon refers to as “Billy Bush weekend.”

Bannon says the weekend following the tape released by The Washington Post, in which Trump talks about grabbing women “by the pussy,” shaped his view of who is loyal to Trump.

“Christie, because of Billy Bush weekend, was not looked at for a cabinet position,” Bannon says, adding that although he respects Christie and the work the New Jersey governor did for the campaign, it was always “Billy Bush weekend” that stuck out in his mind.

One person whose reaction during Billy Bush weekend Bannon says he was impressed by is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“Rudy was there,” Bannon says, and although Bannon said Trump “loved” Giuliani, Bannon essentially says Trump didn’t choose Giuliani as Secretary of State because Giuliani didn’t look the part.

“He didn’t look a Secretary of State, and that mattered to Donald Trump,” Rose says. “You know it did.”

“President Trump, it’s just not the intelligence,” Bannon says. It’s definitely how you comport yourself physically, right?”

Bannon faulted Republican leadership in Congress, telling Rose Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), are trying to “nullify” the 2016 election and allowing investigations into Russian interference in the election to be run by Democrats.

Bannon also echoed Trump rhetoric on Russia, saying that whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election is “far from conclusive,” despite widespread agreement in the intelligence and national security communities that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election.

There are two notable moments in the interview when Bannon criticizes Trump.

In a striking moment that was left out of the 60 Minutes cut of the interview and released online, Bannon criticizes Trump for firing Comey, calling the move the biggest mistake in “modern political history.”

Firing Comey, Bannon says, ultimately led to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Additionally, the Trump administration is calling on Congress to make the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program law, a move that would allow nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to work and go to school in the U.S. Bannon has other ideas.

“As the work permits run out they [should] self deport,” Bannon says when pressed on what he thinks DACA recipients should do. “I think that people that go to Breitbart and others are absolutely [clear] that there’s no path to citizenship, no path to a green card and no amnesty.”