Trump slams Bannon, says ex-aide has ‘lost his mind’
WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
U.S. President Donald Trump has unleashed a spectacular denunciation of one of his closest political allies, describing former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as insane and irrelevant.
After the release of explosive excerpts from a new book in which Bannon reportedly described Trump’s eldest son’s meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” Trump wasted no time Jan. 3 in firing back.
The embattled Republican president issued a response that was searing even by his combative standards.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said in a written statement.
Trump said Bannon -- who engineered the New York real estate mogul’s link to the nationalist far right and helped create a pro-Trump media ecosystem -- was “only in it for himself.”
U.S. media said Charles Harder, a lawyer for Trump, has sent Bannon a cease-and-desist letter accusing him of violating a non-disclosure agreement by speaking to the author of the book.
Trump’s fury appeared to have been provoked by the publication of startling extracts from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff.
Passages published by The Guardian and New York magazine quoted Bannon being highly critical of Trump’s son Donald Junior and daughter Ivanka.
Bannon, who left the White House in August, is also quoted as saying that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election will focus on money laundering.
The investigation by Mueller, a former FBI director, is looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to help get him elected -- a charge the president has repeatedly and vehemently denied.
Donald Junior took a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after an intermediary promised material that would incriminate Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
“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 s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” he said.
Trump responded quickly and cuttingly to the reported comments by Bannon, a former investment banker and the executive chairman of influential ultraconservative outlet Breitbart News.