Bannon has spilled out shocking details on the Trump White House and campaign, which he describes as riddled with conflicting interests.
President Donald Trump Wednesday blasted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as having "lost his mind" in the fallout over damaging comments Bannon made about Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. in excerpts from a new book.
Trump, who continued to speak privately with Bannon after firing him in August, essentially cut ties with Bannon in a blistering statement issued after Bannon's comments came to light.
According to excerpts from "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff, to be released Tuesday, Bannon was installed as a lieutenant of Trump's campaign along with Kellyanne Conway by right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, a Ted Cruz backer who gave the Trump campaign US$5 million in August 2016.
When Bannon became chief executive of the Trump presidential effort, he immediately noticed that it was “the broke-dick campaign.”
The former host of NBC's “The Apprentice” began relying heavily on Bannon, chairman of the extreme right-wing Breitbart News website, for advice in the months leading up to his upset victory in the November 2016 election.
"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 excerpts from the book, Bannon described a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in New York arranged by the president's son and attended by top Trump campaign officials as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."
Warning that the investigation into Kremlin links and money laundering would dig up dirt, Bannon said: “They are going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
Regarding a meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower, Bannon said “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.
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.”
The Wolff book, parts of which were published by New York magazine and The Guardian, portrayed Trump as shocked that he won the election and said his wife, Melania Trump, was in tears, and "not of joy."
In the book, Trump is also derided by one of his oldest associates, Thomas Barrack Jr., who allegedly told a personal friend: “He’s not only crazy, he’s stupid.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders called the book "trashy tabloid fiction."
The first lady's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham added: "The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section. Mrs. Trump supported her husband's decision to run for President and in fact, encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did."
Turning to the real estate company owned by Kushner that received a US$285-million loan from a German bank one month before the U.S. election, Bannon adds that Mueller will “roll up” the young senior adviser. Bannon and Kushner had a long and public feud throughout the former's time in the White House.
“It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me,” Bannon said.
Bannon helped the former real estate tycoon shape his populist “America First” message and has been the president's link to his conservative base of support. It was not clear if the split would push Bannon to be even more aggressive in his campaign against the Republican establishment and whether he now would also target Trump, or whether he would emerge much weaker.
While Trump in the past praised Bannon for his friendship, the president said in his statement Wednesday that Bannon had little to do with his election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, calling him "a staffer who worked for me" after he had already won the Republican nomination.
Trump said Bannon was also to blame for the loss of a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in December when Republican Roy Moore, whose campaign was derailed by accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, lost to Democrat Doug Jones. During the campaign, Trump joined Bannon in backing Moore.