President Donald Trump on Wednesday blasted former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as having “lost his mind” in the fallout over damaging comments Bannon made about Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. in excerpts from a new book.
Trump, who had continued to speak privately with Bannon after firing him in August, essentially cut ties with Bannon at least for now in a blistering statement issued after Bannon’s comments came to light.
“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,” Trump said.
Trump had relied heavily on Bannon, chairman of the right-wing Breitbart News website, for advice in the months leading up to his upset victory in the November 2016 election.
Bannon helped Trump shape a populist, anti-establishment message and has been the president’s link to his conservative base of support. It was not clear if the split would push Bannon to be even more aggressive in his campaign against the Republican establishment and whether he now would also target Trump, or whether he would emerge much weaker.
According to excerpts from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, to be released on Tuesday, Bannon described a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in New York arranged by the president’s son and attended by top Trump campaign officials as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
While Trump in the past praised Bannon for his friendship, the president said in his statement on Wednesday that Bannon had little to do with his election victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, calling him “a staffer who worked for me” after he had already won the Republican nomination.
Trump said Bannon was to blame for the loss of a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in December when Republican Roy Moore, whose campaign was derailed by accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, lost to Democrat Doug Jones. During the campaign, Trump joined Bannon in backing Moore.
“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,” Trump said.