WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump blasted his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, saying that he has “lost his mind” in response to quotes that Bannon made in a new book about the first year of the Trump presidency, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. “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 party.”
Trump also diminished the role that Bannon played in his election victory and in the White House. Trump tapped Bannon as CEO of his campaign in August of 2016 after a shakeup and, after Trump’s unexpected victory, was named one of his top White House advisers. Bannon initially had a spot on the National Security Council, and was viewed as the architect of Trump’s strategy in the early months of the administration. Time magazine put him on its cover with the headline, “The Great Manipulator.”
But he was dismissed from his White House role in August, after he publicly criticized the administration’s approach toward North Korea. He already had clashed with H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, as well as others in the administration.
Bannon then returned to serve as executive chairman of Breitbart News Network, which he had led before he joined the Trump campaign.
A spokeswoman for Bannon did not immediately return a request for comment.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look,” Trump said in his statement. “Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than 30 years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”
The statement came after The Guardian published some of Bannon’s quotes from the book, written by Michael Wolff and published by Henry Holt. Bannon characterizes as “treasonous” a meeting that Donald Trump Jr. arranged with a Russian lawyer and others in June 2016. Bannon also suggested that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was focused on money laundering. “They’re going to crack Don Jr. like an egg on national TV,” Bannon says in the book.
Bannon also is quoted as saying that he was certain that the Russians in the Trump Jr. meeting also were taken to see his father.
“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” Trump said. “It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”
He added, “We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.”
In another passage in the book, Roger Ailes, the former chieftain of Fox News, recommends that Trump appoint John Boehner, the former speaker of the House, as chief of staff. “Who’s that?” Trump asks. But Trump has tweeted about Boehner in the past.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also issued a statement dismissing the book as “filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House.”
“Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy,” she said.
Wolff based his book on more than 200 interviews, including with Trump, and had access to the White House. It’s unclear of when or if he was present for some of the scenes he describes in the book.
A spokesperson for publisher Henry Holt did not immediately return a request for comment.
New York Magazine posted an excerpt from the book on Wednesday, in which some of Trump’s advisers disparage him, as well as Rupert Murdoch. After a phone call on the issue of immigration and Silicon Valley, Murdoch called Trump a “fucking idiot,” according to the book.
Also on Wednesday, Trump Jr. sent out a series of tweets criticizing Bannon and blaming him for the loss of an Alabama Senate seat. Bannon backed Roy Moore, who was defeated by Doug Jones, the first Democrat elected to the Senate from the state in 25 years. Moore was sworn in on Wednesday.
“Andrew Breitbart would be ashamed of the division and lies Steve Bannon is spreading!” Trump Jr. wrote.