By Associated Press
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.”
Nikki Haley, the US 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.”
To Miller, “the portrayal of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him.”
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 on Sunday as he prepared to depart Camp David for the White House.
Wolff’s book draws a derogatory portrait of Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and who spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the telephone to old friends.
The book also quotes Bannon and other prominent advisers as questioning the president’s competence.
Chatter about Trump’s mental fitness for office has intensified in recent months on cable news shows and among Democrats in Congress.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders this past week called such suggestions “disgraceful and laughable.”
“If he was unfit, he probably wouldn’t be sitting there and wouldn’t have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen,” she said, calling him “an incredibly strong and good leader.”
Trump and some aides have attacked Wolff’s credibility, pointing to the fact that the book includes a number of factual errors and denying that the author had as much access as he claimed.
“He said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. It didn’t exist, OK? It’s in his imagination,” Trump said Saturday.
Wolff told NBC on Sunday that “I truly do not want to say the president is a liar,” but that he had indeed spoken with Trump for about three hours during and since the campaign.