(CN) – President Donald Trump blasted former chief strategist Steve Bannon Wednesday over statements in a new book in which the ex-White House advisor opines that Donald Trump Jr.’s contacts with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign were “unpatriotic” and “treasonous.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the White House took the extraordinary step of releasing a lengthy statement in which the president said Bannon “has nothing to do with me or my Presidency.”
“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” Trump said.
Bannon comments were first reported by The Guardian, which obtained an early copy of the book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by journalist Michael Wolfe. An excerpt of the book has since been published online by New York magazine.
According to The Guardian, Bannon also told Wolff that the investigations into potential collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials would likely focus on money laundering.
“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” The Guardian quoted Bannon as saying.
In response, Trump dismissed Bannon as a “staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating 17 candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”
Trump accused Bannon of leaking to the press while in the White House in order to “make himself seem far more important than he was.” The president also downplayed Bannon’s role in the White House, saying Bannon had little access.
“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 said.
In the book, Bannon heavily criticizes Donald Trump Jr. and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for taking a meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer after being promised incriminating documents on Democratic nominee 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 said, according to the Guardian. “They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought 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.”
Manafort was indicted in October on tax fraud and money laundering charges stemming from Mueller’s investigation.
Bannon left the White House in August and returned to Breitbart News, the right-wing website he ran before entering government. Bannon was prominently involved in the failed campaign of Roy Moore, who lost his bid for an Alabama Senate seat last month after being accused of sexually assaulting multiple teenage girls.
Trump’s statement needled Bannon for his support of Moore while also downplaying Bannon’s importance in Trump’s successful presidential campaign.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I made it look,” Trump said. 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 30 years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base – he’s only in it for himself.”
Wolff’s book is reportedly an in-depth look at the Trump White House and is based on more than 200 interviews with people close to Trump and in his administration. In addition to Bannon’s claims, the book also asserts Trump did not want to be president, according to an adaption of the book published Wednesday in New York Magazine.
The White House took on Wolff’s book after multiple reports based on advanced copies ran Wednesday, with White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calling it inaccurate and “trashy.”
“This book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House,” Sanders said in a second statement from the White House. “Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy.”
Several Democrats in Congress were critical of both Bannon and of Trump’s statement. Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., called the feud with Bannon a “soap opera” and said it distracts from other work like helping Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria or developing a plan to address North Korea’s recent provocations.
Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat who has been a prominent critic of Trump, compared Trump’s statements to those made by President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, noting in a Tweet that Trump did not take on Bannon’s assertions about the meeting in Trump Tower.