On the heels of the publication of a book excerpt that includes unflattering quotes about the president from former Trump campaign chief executive and White House senior strategist Steve Bannon, Trump has fired back.
The Guardian and New York Magazine published excerpts of Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, on Wednesday. In the book, Wolffin writes that Bannon described a June 2016 meeting between senior Trump campaign officials and a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised to provide them with incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” and linked the Trump family to a money laundering operation.
Trump wasted little time hitting back. In a lengthy statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Trump claims that when Bannon “was fired” from the White House in August of last year, “he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Trump goes on to denigrate the work Bannon did in the White House and describes his former chief strategist as a mere “staffer.”
“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,” Trump said. “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.”
According to a report by The Guardian based on an excerpt from Wolffin’s book, Bannon expects Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign for possible collusion with Russia to ultimately implicate the Trump family in money laundering.
“You realise where this is going,” the book quotes Bannon as saying. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
Trump’s attack on Bannon stands in contrast to his previous comments about the man who helped him win the presidency. When Trump released a statement about a week after the 2016 election naming Bannon as his chief strategist and Reince Priebus as his chief of staff, he mentioned Bannon’s job first and said, “Steve and Reince are highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory.”
In the days before Bannon’s departure from the White House last August, Trump repeatedly praised him, describing him as “a very decent guy who feels very strongly about the country,” “a good person,” “a good man,” and “a friend of mine.” Once news of Bannon’s departure from the White House become publicly known, Trump posted two tweets praising him.
During a press event at the White House in October, Trump said, “I have a very good relationship, as you know, with Steve Bannon. Steve’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I like Steve a lot.”
At the time, the president’s comments appeared to be intended to quash rumors that the two were headed for a showdown over an open U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in which they had endorsed different candidates in the Republican primary. Trump sided with Luther Strange, while Bannon was one of Roy Moore’s most prominent and staunch supporters.
After Moore won the primary, Trump deleted tweets in which he expressed support for Strange and threw his support behind Moore — support he maintained even after numerous sexual assault allegations were made against Moore, including allegations of child molestation. But in the White House statement released on Wednesday, Trump puts blame for Moore’s defeat in the general election squarely on Bannon’s shoulders.
“Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country,” Trump said. “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.”
After leaving the White House, Bannon returned to Breitbart, where he currently serves as chairman. On Wednesday, the site which Bannon once proudly called “the platform for the alt-right” featured a write-up of Bannon’s comments in the upcoming book, and another article about the statement in which Trump attacked Bannon. But as this has published, Bannon has yet to fire back on his former boss, who he promised to keep serving as “a wingman outside” the White House when he left the administration.