Donald Trump has hit out at his former key advisor Steve Bannon, claiming he “lost his mind” after losing his job at the White House.
The US President’s remarks on Wednesday come following reports that his former chief strategist had accused him of meeting with Russian operatives after Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with them at Trump Tower in June 2016.
Bannon was quoted in a new book as calling the June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians attended by the president’s eldest son “treasonous”.
The US President issued the following statement on Wednesday:
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.
“Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country.
“Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.
“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well.
“Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.
“We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.”
Bannon returned to alt-right Breitbart News as executive chairman in August after he was fired as White House chief strategist
Trump famously values loyalty in associates and employees.
Bannon became Trump’s campaign manager in the months before the November 2016 election, but after the Trump Tower meeting.
The US president’s comments today were in stark contrast with the well wishes he sent to Bannon in a series of tweets following his departure from the White House.
In Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside theTrump White House, Bannon expressed derision and astonishment over the meeting at Trump Tower in New York in which a Russian lawyer was said to be offering damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Bannon was quoted by Wolff as saying there was “zero” chance Trump Jr. didn’t walk the Russian meeting attendees “up to his father’s office on the 26th floor”.
He suggested Trump was aware of his son’s meeting with Russian operatives because he met with them that day, too.
The June meeting has become part of federal special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the election. Trump has denied any such collusion.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that Wolff’s book is “trashy tabloid fiction” and that Bannon’s accusation against Trump is “ridiculous”.
“This book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
Trump Jr accused Bannon of spreading “division and lies”.