President Trump's former chief strategist — who suffered a public falling out with the White House last week after he was quoted as criticizing the president and his family in a new book — offered an apology of sorts, praising Trump in a public statement and trying to soften the earlier scathing comments.
In the controversial book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, Stephen K. Bannon — Trump's former top strategist, who now heads the conservative Breitbart News — describes a meeting that Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner had with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic." The book also quotes Bannon as describing Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, as "dumb as a brick."
Bannon released this statement:
"Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.
"My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president's efforts to make America great again.
"My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of 'the evil empire' and to making films about Reagan's war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton's involvement in selling uranium to them.
"My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.
"Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian 'collusion' investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.
"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."
The statement from Bannon follows heavy criticism from Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump's top policy adviser, who on Sunday eviscerated his former White House colleague over comments attributed to him in the book.
Miller called Bannon an "angry, vindictive person" whose "grotesque comments are so out of touch with reality."
Miller said the "whole White House staff is deeply disappointed in his comments" in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, a scathing tell-all by Michael Wolff that paints Trump as unprepared for the presidency and portrays his aides as concerned about his performance.
"It reads like an angry, vindictive person spouting off to a highly discreditable author," Miller told host Jake Tapper on CNN's State of the Union.
"The book is best understood as a work of poorly written fiction. The author is a garbage author of a garbage book. ... The betrayal of the president in this book is so contrary to the reality of those who work with him," Miller continued.
Shortly after Miller's appearance on the show - which ended when Tapper abruptly cut him off, calling him "obsequious" and concerned only about "one viewer" - Trump tweeted about the "Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author":
"I've had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!"
On NBC's Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd asked Wolff if he left out anything in the book that would have been favourable to Trump because it didn't fit the narrative.
"If I left out anything it was probably stuff even more damning. It's that bad," Wolff responded. "It's an extraordinary moment in time. The last several days focused on my book are proof of this. What happened here? What's going on here?"
Wolff went so far as to raise the specter of the 25th Amendment, in which a president's Cabinet could attempt to remove him from office for being unable to perform his duties, although experts said that amendment was designed with the idea of a president being incapacitated by, for example, a coma.
"It is not an exaggeration or unreasonable to say this is 25th Amendment kind of stuff," Wolff said. Asked if folks in the White House talked about that possibility, he added: "All the time. They would say... we're not at 25th Amend level yet. The 25th Amendment concept is alive every day in the White House."
But he added that the president's aides refuse to confront him. "It's how to look away, how not to confront," he said. "It's how to rationalise."
"Read the book," Wolff added, "and see if you don't feel alarmed."
Miller and Bannon were once thought to be kindred spirits - both hard-liners on immigration who sought to exploit Trump's populist rhetoric to advance a nationalist agenda. But as Bannon began to lose favour in the West Wing, Miller reportedly realigned himself with a faction led by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and daughter Ivanka Trump.
In his book, Wolff relied heavily on on-the-record interviews with Bannon, who was critical of other White House aides and Trump's children. Bannon referred to a 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russia lawyer at Trump Tower as "treasonous" and suggested that it was highly likely that Trump Jr. told his father about the meeting.
That meeting has been scrutinised by independent counsel Robert Mueller as part of his probe into the Trump campaign's contact with Russian officials during the 2016 election.
Asked whether the president was aware of the meeting at the time, Miller said Bannon was not present and therefore "is not even a remotely credible source on any of it".
Growing frustrated as Miller began evading questions and repeating his talking points, and glowing praise of Trump, Tapper cut him off early and went to a commercial. "I think I've wasted enough of my viewers' time," Tapper said, as Miller attempted to keep talking.
"Welcome back to planet Earth," Tapper said to viewers after the show returned. But Trump was eager for the last word. He tweeted "Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!"