In a remarkable exchange Wednesday, President Donald Trump and his former special adviser, Stephen Bannon, entered into a full-scale war of words, with Bannon accusing members of the Trump campaign of being “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” while Trump fired back that Bannon has “lost his mind.”
What started all this?
Bannon joined the Trump campaign in August 2016 as CEO and after Trump’s election served as White House chief strategist until his dismissal in August 2017. Afterward, Bannon returned to his perch as executive chairman of Breitbart News.
It had been reported that Trump and Bannon maintained a good relationship after Bannon’s ouster, and Bannon was widely expected to spend the 2018 election season backing primary challengers for Republicans who were not sufficiently supportive of Trump’s agenda.
However, on Wednesday morning the Guardian published excerpts from an explosive interview Bannon granted to book author Michael Wolff, who is currently writing a forthcoming book titled, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
In the interview, Bannon unloaded on the Trump campaign — in particular on Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. Bannon criticized Trump Jr.’s decision to meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, saying, “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s**t, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
He also predicted that prosecutors “are going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
Expanding his thoughts on the meeting, Bannon even took a swipe at the website he currently heads. According to the Guardian:
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.”
He also predicted that the investigation, currently headed by special counsel Robert Mueller, will focus not on Russian collusion, but rather on potential money laundering. According to the Guardian, Bannon said, “It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner s**t. The Kushner s**t is greasy. They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me.”
How did Trump respond to that?
Pretty viciously. In a statement released by the White House, Trump said, “When [Bannon] was fired, he lost not only his job, he lost his mind.”
Statement from the White House on Steve Bannon: “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.” pic.twitter.com/jv68bm9kO5
— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) January 3, 2018
Trump went on to minimize Bannon’s role in the Trump campaign's success, saying, “Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination … now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning is not as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory[.]”
In his statement, Trump also accused Bannon of being the source of some of the leaks that plagued the Trump White House, claiming that Bannon “spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one on one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”