Saturday 24 March 2018

Trump book author contradicts Bannon's comments explanation

Donald Trump's allies and administration officials have rallied round the president after a book questioned his fitness for office
Donald Trump's allies and administration officials have rallied round the president after a book questioned his fitness for office

The author of an explosive new book questioning US president Donald Trump's fitness for office has contradicted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's explanation of comments which angered his former boss.

Michael Wolff appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe show to discuss his book, Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House.

In the book, Mr Bannon describes a meeting between Donald Trump Jr, senior campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic".

The reference angered the president, who last week lashed out at Mr Bannon, saying he had "lost his mind".

Mr Bannon sought to make amends on Sunday, saying that his description was not aimed at Mr Trump's son, but at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

However, Mr Wolff told MSNBC: "It was not directed at Manafort, it was directed directly at Don Jr."

Mr Wolff's book portrays the 45th president as a leader who does not understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides.

Trump administration officials and allies defended the president and attacked Mr Wolff's book on Sunday.

Chief policy adviser Stephen Miller, in a combative appearance Sunday on CNN, described Fire And Fury as "nothing but a pile of trash, through and through".

CIA director Mike Pompeo said Mr Trump was "completely fit" to lead the country.

"These are from people who just have not accepted the fact that President Trump is the United States president, and I'm sorry for them in that," Mr Pompeo, who gives Trump his regular intelligence briefings, told Fox News Sunday.

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

She told ABC: "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."

The picture painted by the book, said Mr Miller, "is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him (Mr Trump)".

Mr Miller also criticised Steve Bannon, who is quoted extensively in the book, saying it was "tragic and unfortunate" that the former senior aide "would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive".

Mr Bannon is chairman of Breitbart News, and his comments caused a key Bannon backer, Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire Republican party donor and Breitbart co-owner, to distance her family from him.

In his statement on Sunday, Mr Bannon praised Donald Trump Jr as "both a patriot and a good man".

"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," Mr Bannon said in the statement, which was first obtained by the news site Axios.

Mr Miller's interview on CNN's State of the Union quickly grew heated, with Mr Miller criticising CNN's coverage and moderator Jake Tapper accusing him of speaking to an audience of one: his boss.

Mr Tapper abruptly ended the interview, saying: "I think I've wasted enough of my viewers' time."

Soon after, Mr Trump tweeted: "Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!"

The US president took the extraordinary step on Saturday of using Twitter to defend his fitness for office, insisting he is "like, really smart" and, indeed, a "very stable genius".

He pressed the case again on Sunday as he prepared to depart Camp David, where he spent the weekend meeting with Republican congressional leaders, top aides and Cabinet members.

"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.

On Sunday, two days after the book's release, WikiLeaks tweeted a link to an electronic image of the text. Posting the text of a book without permission would violate copyright restrictions and potentially damage sales.

However, hours after WikiLeaks tweeted the link, Fire And Fury remained at number one on Amazon's hardcover and ebook bestseller lists.

Meanwhile, the publisher of Fire And Fury said any efforts to suppress the book are "flagrantly unconstitutional".

In a letter to company employees shared with The Associated Press, Macmillan CEO John Sargent wrote that "no American court" would go along with President Trump should he sue to have Fire And Fury withdrawn.

Macmillan is the parent organisation of Henry Holt and Company, which released the book.

A Trump lawyer last week sent a cease and desist letter to the publisher, demanding it be withheld. Holt responded by moving up the release date from January 9 to last Friday.

Mr Sargent said that the company would send a formal response to Mr Trump later on Monday.

Press Association

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