Sunday 21 October 2018

Steven Bannon in U-turn over damaging comments on Donald Trump Jnr

US President Donald Trump looks solemn as he offers a thumbs-up as he arrives at the White House yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump looks solemn as he offers a thumbs-up as he arrives at the White House yesterday. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jill Colvin Washington

Former Donald Trump strategist Steve Bannon has tried to withdraw his highly damaging comments against Donald Jnr that set Washington alight.

In an astonishing U-turn, Mr Bannon released a statement yesterday professing support for the commander in chief and praising Mr Trump's eldest son as "both a patriot and a good man".

Mr Bannon infuriated the US president with comments to author Michael Wolff describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Trump Jnr, Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic".

Mr Bannon claims now that his description was aimed at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting, and not Mr Trump's son.

"I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jnr has diverted attention from the president's historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency," according to the statement. Mr Bannon insisted his support for Mr Trump and his agenda was "unwavering".

Hours before the statement came out, White House officials used appearances on the news shows yesterday to rally behind Mr Trump and try to undermine Wolff's 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House' book, which portrays the 45th US president as a leader who doesn't understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides.

Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon

Chief policy adviser Stephen Miller, in a combative appearance on CNN, described the book as "nothing but a pile of trash through and through".

He also criticised Mr Bannon, who is quoted at length by Wolff, saying it was "tragic and unfortunate" that Mr Bannon "would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive".

CIA director Mike Pompeo, who said Mr Trump was "completely fit" to lead the country, said he paused before answering because it was such "a ludicrous question".

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said she visited the White House once a week, and "no one questions the stability of the president".

"I'm always amazed at the lengths people will go to, to lie for money and for power. This is like taking it to a whole new low," she said.

To Mr Miller, "the portrayal of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him".

Mr Miller's interview on CNN quickly grew heated, with Mr Miller criticising CNN's coverage and moderator Jake Tapper pressing Miller to answer his questions. Tapper abruptly ended the interview, saying: "I think I've wasted enough of my viewers' time."

Earlier in the weekend, Mr Trump took to Twitter to defend his fitness for office, insisting he is "like, really smart" and, indeed, a "very stable genius." He pressed the case again yesterday as he prepared to depart Camp David for the White House.

"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," he tweeted.

Wolff's book draws a derogatory portrait of Trump as an undisciplined man-child who spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed.

Mr Trump and some aides have attacked Wolff's credibility and denied that the author had as much access as he claimed.

"He said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. It didn't exist, OK? It's in his imagination," Mr Trump said on Saturday.

Wolff told NBC yesterday: "I truly do not want to say the president is a liar," but that he had indeed spoken with Mr Trump for about three hours during and since the campaign.

Irish Independent

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