WASHINGTON – Former White House adviser Steve Bannon denied on Sunday criticizing President Donald Trump’s older son and profusely apologized for not speaking up earlier about the incendiary new book “Fire and Fury,” in which author Michael Wolff provides a detailed fly-on-the-wall account of internal White House politics and profiles.
Four days after Trump angrily broke with him in a harshly worded communique released by the White House, Bannon sent the media on Sunday a statement in which he apologized for not having come out earlier to deny the excerpts of his interview with Wolff.
“I regret that my 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,” Bannon said.
“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,” he continued, referring to the June 2016 meeting that Trump Jr. held with Russians agents, a meeting at which campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were also present.
“My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate,” Bannon claimed.
“He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.,” he said.
Meanwhile, an unidentified source told CNN that Bannon had drafted a statement denying his statements, as quoted by Wolff, were directed to Don Jr., but he had not yet decided about whether to release his statement before the president came out with his own fiery written remarks, another unnamed Bannon ally said, as reported by CNN.
In his remarks, the president lambasted “Sloppy Steve Bannon” and claimed that after he was fired from his White House position, he “lost his mind.”
Trump had kept sending salvoes Bannon’s way before the weekend, tweeting that he “cried when he got fired and begged for his job.”
“Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book,” Trump had written. “He used Sloppy Steve Bannon, who cried when he got fired and begged for his job. Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone. Too bad!”
For the moment, the president, who returned from Washington after spending the weekend at Camp David, has not responded to Bannon’s mea culpa.
The White House had announced Bannon’s agreed-on departure from Trump’s inner circle on Aug. 18, but various sources told the media that he was fired, something that the president confirmed last Friday.
For months prior to his ouster, Bannon had been in “open warfare” with Trump son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner and economic adviser Gary Cohn, along with other “moderate” voices within the White House, whom he dubbed “the globalists.”
But Trump remained on good terms with Bannon after he returned to Breitbart News until this past week, and Bannon – in turn – had styled himself as a defender of the president’s populist agenda from outside the White House, claiming in his Sunday statement that “I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president’s efforts to make America great again.”
Trump and his advisers have continuing with their full-throated campaign against “Fire and Fury,” which relates comments from dozens of White House staffers and other administration officials expressing serious doubts about the president’s ability to govern the nation.
“I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!” wrote Trump on his Twitter account on Sunday morning.