WASHINGTON — Steve Bannon, former chief strategist to President Donald Trump, issued something akin to an apology over comments he made in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
In a statement to Axios, Bannon expressed “regret” that his “delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don. Jr. has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”
The initial stories about “Fire and Fury” last week focused on comments that Bannon made about Donald Trump Jr.’s involvement in organizing a Trump Tower meeting with Russian individuals in June, 2016. Bannon called the decision to meet with the Russians, some with links to the government, as “treasonous.” He also said that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution team is “going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV.”
“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around,” Bannon said.
“My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama,” he said.
Bannon did not challenge the accuracy of the quotes that Wolff attributed to him. Wolff said that he had tapes of conversations with some of his sources.
Bannon is the executive chairman of Breitbart News, and in the storm of reaction to the book, one of the stakeholders in the outlet, Rebekah Mercer, with whom he has had close ties, issued a statement rebuking his comments and siding with the president.
Bannon, in his statement, contended that his comments about the June, 2016 meeting were aimed at Paul Manafort, who was then the campaign chairman. He also said that he thinks that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt.” Emails that Trump Jr. released showed that Manafort and Jared Kushner attended the meeting as well.
“My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate,” Bannon said. “He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
Bannon served as chief strategist until August, when he was dismissed. Trump named him campaign CEO in August, 2016.