Thomas Gallatin / January 4, 2018

Trump Nukes Bannon

After Bannon’s leaked comments, the president blasts his former adviser’s role in his administration.

President Donald Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon, who was fired last August, has found himself in a verbal spat with Trump over recently released excerpts from a new tabloid tell-all book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, written by Michael Wolff, who has a long history of fabrication. In the book, Wolff quotes Bannon as saying that Donald Trump Jr.‘s meeting with a Russian lawyer, in which he expected to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton, was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” Bannon’s words imply that there is something to the whole Trump-Putin collusion delusion funded, as it turns out, by Hillary Clinton and her Democrat Party operatives.

However, Bannon was singing a different tune last September. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Bannon said of the whole thing, “There’s nothing to the Russia investigation. It’s a waste of time.” He continued, “Look, I was there. It’s a total and complete farce. Russia collusion is a farce.”

On Wednesday, Trump responded to Bannon as, unfortunately, he too-often does in petulant personal disputes, unloading on his former adviser. In an official statement, Trump said that Bannon not only “lost his job,” but “lost his mind.” Trump then set the record straight regarding who was behind the problem of damaging leaks to the media during the early months of his presidency: “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.” Given that the leaks largely stopped after Bannon’s dismissal, this seems right. Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney warned Bannon “that his actions of communicating with author Michael Wolff regarding an upcoming book give rise to numerous legal claims including defamation by libel and slander, and breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with our client. Legal action is imminent.”

Trump’s engagement of Bannon ensured that Wolff’s book will be a best seller! But by Wednesday evening, Bannon seemed to act as if there was no feud between him and Trump. “The president of the United States is a great man,” he said. “You know, I support him day in and day out.” On Thursday morning, Bannon further commented, “Nothing will ever come between us and President Trump and his agenda. We’re tight on this agenda as we’ve ever been.”

What’s going on here? Well, Trump’s final line in his statement on Bannon seems to hit at the heart of the issue. After referencing how he and Republican members of Congress have worked to make America great again, Trump said, “Like me, [Republicans] 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.” Clearly, Trump is pointing at Bannon, who is neither Republican nor Democrat, but a deeply disgruntled man who seeks to lead the anti-establishment revolution. It’s one thing to drain the swamp with an eye toward fixing what’s broken — making it great again — rather than blowing it all up because it doesn’t suit. (Bannon’s support for Roy Moore comes to mind.) The truth is Bannon seems to be a radical idealist, while Trump is a bomb-thrower but ultimately a pragmatist who’s willing to work toward fixing things rather than blowing it all up.

Trump’s full statement on Bannon:

> 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.

Update: Regarding Michael Wolff’s credibility, a Washington Post media reporter noted: “Wolff has a penchant for … pushing the facts as far as they’ll go, and sometimes further than they can tolerate. … He has been accused of not just re-creating scenes in his books and columns, but of creating them wholesale.” An editor who once worked with Wolff described him this way: “His great gift is the appearance of intimate access. He is adroit at making the reader think that he has spent hours and days with his subject, when in fact he may have spent no time at all.”

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