Trump says former aide Bannon has 'lost his mind'
US President Donald Trump has hit out at former White House adviser Steve Bannon saying he has "lost his mind" in the fallout over damaging comments Mr Bannon made about Mr Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., in excerpts of a new book.
Mr Trump, who had continued to speak privately with Mr Bannon in the months after firing him as the White House chief strategist last August, essentially cut ties with him in a blistering statement issued after Mr Bannon's comments about Don Jr. came to light.
"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," Mr Trump said.
Mr Trump said Mr Bannon had little to do with his presidential victory in 2016 but was to blame for the loss of a Republican-held US Senate seat in Alabama in December when Roy Moore, who both Mr Bannon and Mr Trump had backed, lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
"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"
He added: "Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than 30 years by Republicans.
"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," Mr Trump added.
He also said Mr Bannon "only pretends to have had influence within the White House and that he rarely met "one-on-one" with him.
Mr Bannon expressed derision and astonishment over the June 2016 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 White House has dismissed the accusation by Mr Bannon.
"I think that is a ridiculous accusation," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters. She also said that the book is "filled with false and misleading accounts".
In the book, Mr Bannon called the meeting that his son arranged and that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also attended "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."
Mr Bannon was also quoted as saying he was sure Mr Trump Jr. would have taken the Russians who took part in the meeting to meet his father in Trump Tower.
The explosive comments from a former close aide and far-right architect of Mr Trump's November 2016 election victory angered the White House and the Republican president.
"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," Mr Bannon said in the book in excerpts seen by Reuters.
"Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s**t, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."
When an intermediary proposed the meeting, saying the Russians were offering damaging information about Clinton, Mr Trump Jr. responded in an email, "I love it."
Mr Bannon was incredulous about the meeting shortly after it was revealed, according to the book, concluding sarcastically, "That's the brain trust they had."
Book claims Trump team looked forward to losing election
The book, due out next Tuesday, was based on more than 200 interviews with Mr Trump, senior White House staffers and confidantes conducted by Mr Wolff, a contributing editor for The Hollywood Reporter, according to publisher Henry Holt.
In a New York magazine article today adapted from the book, Mr Wolff described a campaign team looking forward to losing, from Mr Trump and his family to staffers angling for profitable jobs after the election.
When it became clear on election night that Mr Trump would win, Donald Trump Jr told a friend that his father "looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears - and not of joy."
US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to try to help Mr Trump win in part by hacking and releasing emails embarrassing to Mrs Clinton. Moscow has denied the allegation.
In the book, Mr Bannon also said he believed 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," he was quoted as saying.
Paul Manafort and business associate Rick Gates, who also worked on Mr Trump's campaign, pleaded not guilty in November to federal charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller including conspiracy to launder money and failing to register as foreign agents of Ukraine's former pro-Russian government.
Mr Bannon was scheduled to appear in the near future before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee and will likely be questioned about the Trump Tower meeting comments, a congressional official said.
Mr Bannon became Mr Trump's campaign manager in the months before the November 2016 election, but after the Trump Tower meeting.
He served as chief White House strategist during the first eight months of Mr Trump's turbulent presidency.
He was a driving force behind Mr Trump's nationalist and anti-globalisation agenda. After being fired in August, he returned to lead the far-right Breitbart News website.