Former White House chief strategist’s comments to journalist put him at odds with President Trump
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has described a meeting between President Donald Trump’s son Don Jr. and a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
Bannon made the scathing comments in a book to be published next week—Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by journalist Michael Wolff, the newspaper said. “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon reportedly said.
Bannon, who left the White House in August, was also quoted as saying that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election will focus on money laundering.
Bannon, an executive with right-wing news outlet Breitbart News, joined Trump’s White House bid two months after the June 9, 2016 meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Trump campaign officials. Besides Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended the meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
Donald Trump Jr. took the meeting with the Russian lawyer after an intermediary promised material that would incriminate Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“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,” Bannon was quoted as saying in the book. “They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” he said.
The investigation by Mueller, a former FBI director, is looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to get him elected—a charge the president has repeatedly and vehemently denied.
Trump said in an interview with The New York Times last week that he expected the Mueller probe to be “fair” and Donald Trump Jr. has denied any wrongdoing. Manafort and a business associate have been indicted on money laundering charges unrelated to the election campaign. Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
Using a hurricane metaphor, The Guardian quoted Bannon as suggesting in the book that the White House was being complacent about the Mueller probe. “They’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five,” he said.
Bannon’s relations with Kushner were reportedly strained during their tenure at the White House. And Bannon had particularly harsh comments in the book about the wealthy New York real estate developer who is married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka and serves as a senior adviser to the president.
“You realize where this is going,” Bannon said of the probe by special counsel Mueller. “This is all about money laundering. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner… It’s as plain as a hair on your face,” he said. “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit… The Kushner shit is greasy. They’re going to go right through that.”
Since leaving the White House in August, Bannon has staked out some positions at odds with the Trump administration. In the most notable break, he defied the president and backed a rival Republican candidate in a Senate race in the southern state of Alabama. Trump eventually changed his position and also supported Roy Moore, who lost.
Wolff, whose books include a biography of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, reportedly interviewed the president and more than 200 members of his inner circle and others for Fire and Fury.