Updated at 1:20 p.m. ET
Steve Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, once called a now-famous meeting among Donald Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and a group of Russians “treasonous,” according to accounts of an upcoming book.
Responding to the story, the White House issued a statement from Trump stating, “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.”
Bannon is being quoted making the remarks in Fire and Fury, a book about the Trump White House by journalist Michael Wolff. After The Guardian cited an advance copy of the book (which will be released next week), news of Bannon’s comments quickly spread.
Trump is now calling Bannon, who served as his campaign CEO, “a staffer” who joined the campaign after his nomination was assured. “Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look.”
“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. 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.”
An excerpt from Fire and Fury was also published on New York magazine’s site late Wednesday morning, with the title “Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President.” According to the magazine, Wolff compiled quotes from 18 months of interviews and said he was allowed to occupy “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing.”
The Trump Tower meeting took place in June 2016, but it wasn’t publicly revealed until last summer. Discussing it with Wolff, Bannon reportedly said, “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Wolff quotes Bannon as saying, “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,” according to The Guardian.
The members of Trump’s inner circle were drawn to the meeting by the promise of damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. They were joined at Trump Tower by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, British-born businessman Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Soviet-born American businessman Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze.
The Trump Tower meeting has been a focal point in reports about the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russia’s attempts to influence last year’s U.S. election.
Discussing the president’s son and the investigation’s potential path, Bannon reportedly told Wolff, “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
When Goldstone contacted Donald Trump Jr. about the potential for dirt on Clinton, Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
After news of the meeting became public, Trump Jr. said the Russians had not produced any “meaningful information.”