Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians attended by Donald Trump Jr. and his father’s top campaign officials “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” according to excerpts from a new book seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Bannon expressed derision and astonishment over the meeting in Trump Tower in New York in which a Russian lawyer was said to be offering damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, according to the book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.
The meeting, arranged by Trump’s son, also included Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. It has become part of a federal investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the election. Trump has denied any such collusion.
“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. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon says in the book excerpts seen by Reuters.
“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.”
‘They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.’– Steve Bannon, according to new book Fire and Fury
When an intermediary proposed the meeting, saying the Russians were offering damaging information about Clinton, Trump Jr. responded in an email, “I love it.”
Bannon was incredulous about the meeting shortly after it was revealed, according to the book, concluding sarcastically: “That’s the brain trust they had.”
The book, due out next Tuesday, was based on more than 200 interviews with Trump, senior White House staffers and confidantes conducted by Wolff, a contributing editor for The Hollywood Reporter, according to publisher Henry Holt.
In a statement on Wednesday, Trump dismissed Bannon as a mere “staffer” and excoriated him for “leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was.
Donald Trump Jr. is shown on the Fox News set just hours after his email correspondence involving a controversial meeting with a Russian source was publicly released, on July 11, 2017. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)
“Steve 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 in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that the book was “filled with false and misleading accounts.”
Melania Trump is portrayed in Fire and Fury as disconsolate as the election night returns made it clear her husband would win, an outcome she did not desire, the book claims.
Stephanie Grisham, communications director for Melania Trump, said the characterization was false.
“The book is clearly going to be sold in the bargain fiction section,” said Grisham. “Mrs. Trump supported her husband’s decision to run for president and in fact, encouraged him to do so. She was confident he would win and was very happy when he did.”
There was no immediate comment from Bannon on the book details, first reported by the Guardian. The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Trump Jr.
Bannon became Trump’s campaign manager in the months before the November 2016 election — after the Trump Tower meeting — and was chief White House strategist during the turbulent first eight months of Trump’s presidency.
In the book, Bannon also says he believes the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow will focus on money laundering.
“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon was quoted as saying.
Steve Bannon, then a White House strategist, listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting on cybersecurity in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Jan. 31, 2017. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)
Trump fired Bannon in August, removing a far-right architect of his election victory and a driving force behind his nationalist and anti-globalization agenda.
But weeks later, according to a Washington Post report, Trump was still communicating with Bannon by phone.
Also, Trump and Bannon each enthusiastically threw their support behind controversial Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Trump, in his statement on Wednesday, blamed Bannon for Moore’s defeat by Democrat Doug Jones:
“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.”
Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, who also worked on Trump’s campaign, pleaded not guilty in November to federal charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy against the United States and failing to register as foreign agents of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government.
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