In a blistering statement Wednesday, President Trump unloaded at length on his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon. In the scathing disavowal of his former advisor, Trump levels some strong allegations, including that Bannon leaked "false information" to the media press, used Trump's win to gain personal influence, exaggerated his own role in the administration, and undermined both the Republican Party and the Trump agenda to promote his own.
On Wednesday, the Guardian published excerpts from a new book on the Trump White House that includes quotes from Bannon's interview with author Michael Wolff. In the excerpted quotes, Bannon slams Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian source as "treasonous," suggests that Robert Mueller will be able to get to Trump, and unloads on Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
In response, Trump issued his lengthy disavowal of Bannon. "Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency," said Trump. "When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind."
Trump then accused Bannon of exaggerating the role he played in the election, and slammed him for backing Roy Moore, which has damaged the Republican Party.
"Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party," said Trump. "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. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself."
The president then addressed Bannon's "war with the media" and accused him of "leaking false information" while serving at the White House.
"Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was," he said. "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."
Trump concluded by suggesting that rather than really trying to "make America great again," Bannon just wanted to "burn it all down."
"We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down," he said.
Bannon joined the Trump campaign in its final three months, appointed as chairman in mid-August 2016. After Trump's upset electoral victory over Hillary Clinton, Bannon served as part of the Trump transition team. Trump then appointed him White House chief strategist, a position he held until August 18, 2017, almost exactly one year after he joined the campaign. While Bannon says he submitted his letter of resignation two weeks earlier, Trump says he fired him.
The tension between Bannon and Trump ramped up during the Alabama special election, with Bannon backing "populist" candidate Roy Moore in the primary, while Trump initially backed "establishment" candidate Luther Strange. Moore won the primary but then lost the general election amid allegations of sexual misconduct in the past. It was the first time a Democrat won a senate seat in Alabama since 1992.