Monday 10 December 2018

Trump launches legal action against ex-adviser Bannon

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

Ben Riley-Smith Washington

Donald Trump has launched legal action against his former adviser Steve Bannon as the pair's spectacular fallout over a controversial new book escalated.

The US president's lawyers have written a letter accusing Mr Bannon, the former Trump campaign chief and White House adviser, of defaming the president.

The move came after Mr Bannon was quoted extensively in extracts of a new book by journalist Michael Wolff about Mr Trump, which included a string of embarrassing allegations. Mr Bannon is quoted as calling a meeting Mr Trump's son Donald Jr had with the Russians "treacherous" and "unpatriotic" and saying his daughter Ivanka was as "dumb as a brick".

Other claims in the book - which has been strongly rebutted by the White House - include that Mr Trump thought he would lose the election and dyes his hair.

Mr Trump's attorney Charles Harder of the firm Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP wrote a letter to Mr Bannon informing him of the legal action.

A statement from the attorney added that Mr Bannon was in "breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with our clients" and said legal action is "imminent".

Meanwhile, Mr Bannon pledged his support to Mr Trump in his first public comments since the row erupted as he spoke on 'Breitbart News Tonight', broadcast on Sirius XM radio. "The president of the United States is a great man. You know I support him day in and day out," Mr Bannon said.

The legal action marks a new low point in the relationship between Mr Bannon, the man most credited with getting Mr Trump into the White House, and the US president.

Mr Bannon joined the US administration alongside Mr Trump but left in August 2016 to campaign through his right-wing website Breitbart News after clashing with other aides.

The legal action comes the day after Mr Trump publicly disowned Mr Bannon after revelations from the book, called 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House', became public.

Mr Trump said Mr Bannon had "lost his mind" and "has nothing to do with me or my presidency".

Other allegations have begun to emerge from the book, which is not released until next week.

It is claimed Mark Corallo, a former spokesman for Mr Trump's personal legal team, quit because he feared a controversial meeting on Air Force One amounted to obstruction of justice.

The statement was about what the White House should say regarding a controversial Trump Tower meeting where senior campaign figures met people with Russian links before the election.

Obstruction of justice is one of the grounds for launching impeachment proceedings - the process through which a US president can be removed from office by Congress.

The book also claims that a string of senior Trump figures made disparaging remarks about the president's intellect, often in the crudest terms.

Aides Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus allegedly believed he was an "idiot", national security adviser HR McMaster thought he was a "dope", and economic aide Gary Cohn considered him "dumb as s***", according to the book.

The White House hit back against the book in the strongest terms on Wednesday, issuing a blanket rebuttal and warning people not to believe the claims.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: "This book is 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."

There are also political consequences to the fallout between Mr Trump and Mr Bannon, who has been running a campaign to defeat mainstream Republicans since leaving office.

Firebrand Republican candidates who had been endorsed by Mr Bannon in their quest to defeat more mainstream candidates for Congress seats distanced themselves from him.

Other allegations have also emerged about members of Mr Trump's inner circle from the book, which was based on interviews with more than 200 people.

It is claimed Corey Lewandowski, the now married former Trump campaign manager, dated Hope Hicks, Mr Trump's communications director.

It is also alleged that Mr Trump called Sally Yates, a female acting attorney general, "such a c***" after she refused to endorse his immigration ban.

Irish Independent

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