It has been a simmering powder keg for months, but now the war between President Donald Trump and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon has exploded.
It started on Wednesday when it was revealed that, in a new book by writer Michael Wolff, Bannon accused the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner of treason. He also reportedly predicted that special counsel Robert Mueller was “going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
The account comes from the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” set to be released next week according to The Guardian, which has seen an advanced copy of the book.
“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor — with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon is quoted as saying. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad sh—, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Bannon went on, Wolff writes, to say that if any such meeting had to take place, it should have been set up “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people”. Any information, he said, could then be “dump[ed] … down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication”.
Bannon added: “You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to … But that’s the brain trust that they had.”
Bannon also speculated that Trump Jr had involved his father in the meeting. “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”
President Trump did not take the comments kindly, and has fired back in Trumpian fashion.
“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,” the president said in a statement on Wednesday.
“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.”
The fight will be seen as a positive development by congressional Republicans and those close to the president who have been wanting him to distance himself from the Breitbart head for months, the Washington Post predicted.
For months, Trump’s top aides — from lawyer Ty Cobb to senior adviser Jared Kushner to communications director Hope Hicks to friends like Chris Ruddy and Gov. Chris Christie — have tried to convince him to cut ties with former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
Trump was infuriated at Bannon’s comments, even telling senior aides and advisers that Bannon was “not well,” according to someone familiar with the president’s frustrations. He complained that Bannon again was trying to take credit for his election win. He huddled with Hicks and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to unleash a fiery statement after calling friends for much of the morning.
Trump aides called people close to Bannon Wednesday morning and told them the White House was displeased with the former chief strategist, according to people familiar with the conversation.