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NOT NICE! Trump Tries, Fails to Block Damning New Book

  • White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon (L) attends a meeting between US President Donald Trump and congressional leaders to discuss trade deals at the at the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington U.S., Feb. 2, 2017.

    White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon (L) attends a meeting between US President Donald Trump and congressional leaders to discuss trade deals at the at the Roosevelt room of the White House in Washington U.S., Feb. 2, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

Published 4 January 2018

The publisher will release "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" on an accelerated schedule this Friday.

US President Donald Trump's lawyer vowed to stop publication of an explosive new book portraying a fumbling, feckless president in a conflict-ridden White House, while threatening to sue former top aide Steve Bannon over damning and incriminating comments strewn throughout the book. He failed.

Bannon Reveals White House Riddled With Conflict, Confusion

Named after the now-infamous threats Trump issued against North Korea, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by author Michael Wolff set off a political firestorm with a completely unflattering portrayal of Trump, who is shown as disinterested in winning the US presidency in 2016 and, ultimately, unprepared for the job.

Some of the most cavalier and disparaging commentaries came from Bannon, a far-right strategist who headed the final stage of the former reality television host's "broke-dick campaign," as he called it, and became chief strategist at the White House before being fired in August.

The book also includes disparaging comments from Trump friends and associates such as Thomas Barrack Jr., who allegedly told a personal friend: "He's not only crazy, he's stupid," and media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who called an admiring Trump a "fucking idiot."

Charles Harder, Trump's personal lawyer, in a legal notice provided to Reuters warned of possible claims including libel against Wolff and publisher Henry Holt & Co and threatened to block publication of the book. Harder also told Reuters that "legal action is imminent" against Bannon.

Henry Holt said in a statement that it had received a cease-and-desist letter from Trump's attorney, but would go ahead with publishing the book on an accelerated schedule, noting that "due to unprecedented demand," it would release the book on Friday morning, rushing it to print after previously planning to put it out next Tuesday.

Trump cut ties with Bannon on Wednesday, saying his former adviser had "lost his mind" in an unhinged statement issued after comments attributed to Bannon in the book were made public.

White House spokesman Sarah Sanders heaped scorn on both Bannon and the book at her briefing on Thursday. She said Breitbart News should consider firing Bannon and attempted to cast doubt on Wolff's accuracy.

Bannon Goes Back to Breitbart News, Declares Trump 'Over'

She called the book "some trash" that came from "an author that no one had ever heard of until today."

"This book is mistake after mistake after mistake."

Trump lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bannon on Wednesday asking him not to disclose any confidential information. They said Bannon had breached an agreement by communicating with Wolff about Trump, his family and the campaign and made "disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements" about them.

In the book, Bannon was quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in New York as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic." The meeting, held after the Russians promised damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was attended by Donald Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager at the time.

Trump's statement also diminished Bannon's role in the election victory and accused him of leaking to the media.

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.

Before joining the campaign, Bannon headed the conservative Breitbart News website and proved to be a divisive figure in the White House. He returned to Breitbart after being fired, although he is reported to have continued talking with Trump.

Bannon's reaction to the book controversy has been muted. In interviews with Breitbart News after the news broke, he called Trump a "great man" and pledged continued support for the president's agenda.

Bradley Moss, a Washington lawyer specializing in national security law, said any non-disclosure agreement would not apply to Bannon once he became a government employee. The government has far less power to limit speech by employees than private companies, Moss said.

A lawsuit could hurt Trump because Bannon's lawyers would be entitled to interview White House officials and collect potentially damaging documents from them in his defense, Moss said.

"I assume the cease-and-desist letter is aimed primarily at the public," said Michael Dorf, a professor at Cornell Law School. "The idea that he could block publication is absurd."

On Thursday, the White House also said no personal devices, including cellphones, would be allowed in the White House West Wing beginning next week for security purposes.

The story that triggered the Trump-Bannon split was an offshoot of the investigation into whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russia to sway the election to Trump, allegations both Trump and Moscow deny.

Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, another campaign aide, pleaded not guilty in November to federal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including conspiracy to launder money. Manafort sued Mueller on Wednesday, alleging that his investigation exceeded its legal authority.

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