Bannon walks back statements as aides defend Trump’s fitness
WASHINGTON (AP) — Steve Bannon is trying to make amends.
Faced with a growing backlash, President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist released a statement Sunday reaffirming his support for the commander in chief and praising Trump’s eldest son as “both a patriot and a good man.”
Bannon infuriated Trump with comments to author Michael Wolff describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
But Bannon said Sunday his description was aimed at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting, and not Trump’s son.
“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,” Bannon said in the statement, first obtained by the news site Axios. Bannon said his support for Trump and his agenda was “unwavering.”
Hours before the statement came out, administration officials used appearances on the Sunday news shows to rally behind Trump and try to undermine Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which portrays the 45th president as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides.
Chief policy adviser Stephen Miller, in a combative appearance on CNN, described the book as “nothing but a pile of trash through and through.”
He also criticized Bannon, who is quoted at length by Wolff, saying it was “tragic and unfortunate” that Bannon “would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Trump was “completely fit” to lead the country, pausing before answering because, he said on “Fox News Sunday,” it was such “a ludicrous question.”
“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,” said Pompeo, who gives Trump his regular intelligence briefings.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that she is at the White House once a week, and “no one questions the stability of the president.”
“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,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”
To Miller, “the portrayal of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him.”
Miller’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” quickly grew heated, with Miller criticizing CNN’s coverage and moderator Jake Tapper pressing Miller to answer his questions and accusing him of speaking to only one viewer: Trump.
Tapper abruptly ended the interview, saying: “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”
Soon after, 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!”
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to defend his fitness for office, insisting he is “like, really smart” and, indeed, a “very stable genius.” He pressed the case again Sunday.
“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.