(BBG) Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon issued a lengthy apology to Donald Trump and his family as several of the president’s allies spoke out against an explosive new book that raised doubts about the former real estate developer’s fitness for office.
In a statement first reported by the political website Axios and also provided to Bloomberg, Bannon, who left the White House in August, said Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. “is both a patriot and a good man.’’
Comments attributed to Bannon about Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting with Russian nationals to get damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton — that the gathering had been “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” — appeared in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” published on Friday.
In the book, Bannon predicted that the special counsel investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia would “crack” the younger Trump “like an egg on national TV.” He also spared no love for Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
Bannon said in the statement that his support for the president and for Trump’s agenda is “unwavering,” adding that his comments about the Russian meeting had been aimed at Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time of the meeting, rather than Trump Jr.
Manafort should have know the Russians “are duplicitous, cunning and not our friend,” Bannon said. “To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
The very public apology was just the latest fallout from the release of “Fire and Fury,” in which Wolff claims, after having had access to the West Wing during the first months of the Trump administration, that many of the president’s top aides and confidants consider him paranoid, inept and even unfit to hold office.
Trump, 71, denounced the book in a press conference on Saturday as “fiction,” after affirming on Twitter earlier in the day that he’s “a very stable genius” with an impressive resume. He returned to the fray on Sunday as he prepared to leave Camp David, the presidential retreat in rural Maryland, to return to Washington after meetings with Republican lawmakers and members of his cabinet.
“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,” Trump said. “Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”
Members of the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers flooded the airwaves on Sunday to vouch for the president’s intellectual bona fides and to attack Wolff. White House senior adviser Stephen Miller derided “a garbage author of a garbage book,” on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He also termed Bannon’s comments in the book “vindictive” and “out of touch with reality.”
In a tense interview, CNN anchor Jake Tapper concluded by telling Miller that “there is one viewer that you care about right now,” referring to Trump. The president later said on Twitter that Tapper “just got destroyed in his interview” with Miller.
In rare Sunday-show appearances, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said he’s found the president “engaged” and an avid consumer of the intelligence agency’s daily briefing.
“We talk about some of the most serious matters facing America and the world, complex issues, the president is engaged, he understands the complexity, he asks really difficult questions of our team at CIA,” Pompeo said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“He delivers policy outcomes based on the information that we provide him,” Pompeo said in a separate interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Trump has been an “active, engaged and effective leader,” said Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, on ABC’s “This Week.” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, also defended Trump’s stability and said, “he didn’t become the president by accident.”
Miller downplayed Bannon’s role in Trump’s campaign and at the White House during the early months of the administration as “greatly exaggerated.” It was fair for Trump to describe himself as a “genius” because it “happens to be a true statement,” Miller said.
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Wolff said he was given access to the White House in the early months of Trump’s term, and that his “goal was to keep going until somebody said go away.”
If Trump said the pair never sat for an interview for the book, it may be that “he probably did not see” their conversations in that way, Wolff said.