US President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary attack on former chief strategist Steve Bannon this afternoon, blasting the Breitbart News executive ahead of the release of a new, unflattering book that paints the president as juvenile and his White House as chaotic.
Trump, in a statement from the presidency, said that Bannon "has nothing to do with me or my Presidency" and charges that: "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 17 candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican part,” Trump’s statement read. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country.”
"Steve doesn't represent my base – he's only in it for himself," Trump added, calling the book “phony” and accusing Bannon of “leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was.”
The extraordinary statement comes in response to a new book by writer Michael Wolff that offers a series of explosive revelations, including that Trump never expected to win the 2016 presidential race. Trump seemed most angry at comments made by Bannon, first reported by The Guardian, which obtained an early copy of the book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, from a bookseller in the United States.
According to The Guardian, Bannon described a Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jnr, Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."
An adaptation of the book published Wednesday in New York magazine says Trump believed his presidential nomination would boost his brand and deliver "untold opportunities," suggesting the former reality TV star never expected to win the race. The excerpt also says Trump Jnr told a friend that Trump looked as if he'd seen a ghost when it became clear he might win and described now-First Lady Melania Trump as "in tears — and not of joy."
The book was based on more than 200 interviews, including conversations with the president and senior staff.
Former White House chief strategist Bannon describes the 2016 meeting as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic" in the book. "They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV," Bannon reportedly said.
Bannon, who left the White House in August, was also quoted as saying that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election will focus on money-laundering.
Bannon joined Trump's White House bid two months after the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Trump campaign officials. Besides Donald Trump Jnr, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended the meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
Donald Trump Jnr took the meeting with the Russian lawyer after an intermediary promised material that would incriminate Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
"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," Bannon was quoted as saying in the book. "They didn't have any lawyers.
"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," he said.
The investigation by Mueller, a former FBI director, is looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to get him elected – a charge the president has repeatedly and vehemently denied.
Trump said in an interview with The New York Times last week that he expected the Mueller probe to be "fair" and Donald Trump Jnr has denied any wrongdoing.
Manafort and a business associate have been indicted on money-laundering charges unrelated to the election campaign. Trump's former national security adviser Mike Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
Using a hurricane metaphor, The Guardian quoted Bannon as suggesting in the book that the White House was being complacent about the Mueller probe.
"They're sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five," he said.
Bannon's relations with Kushner were reportedly strained during their tenure at the White House. And the former strategist had particularly harsh comments in the book about the wealthy New York real estate developer who is married to Trump's daughter Ivanka and serves as a senior adviser to the president.
"You realize where this is going," Bannon said of the probe by special counsel Mueller. "This is all about money-laundering. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jnr and Jared Kushner... it's as plain as a hair on your face," he said. "It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit... The Kushner shit is greasy. They're going to go right through that."
Since leaving the White House in August, Bannon has staked out some positions at odds with the Trump administration. In the most notable break, he defied the president and backed a rival Republican candidate in a Senate race in the southern state of Alabama. Trump eventually changed his position and also supported Roy Moore, who lost.