WASHINGTON (AFP, NYTIMES) - Former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, a target of White House wrath over an explosive new book that paints a harsh picture of the president, issued a statement on Sunday (Jan 7) expressing "regret" and underscoring his "unwavering" support for Trump.
But Bannon's statement, first provided to the Axios news website, did not specifically deny any of his reported comments in the book Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, who quotes Bannon extensively. Neither did the statement contain a forthright apology for Bannon's part in touching off the buzzsaw of criticism spawned by the book.
One of the more incendiary passages in the instantly bestselling book was a quote, attributed to Bannon, that a pre-election meeting involving son Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer was potentially "treasonous."
Bannon was also quoted as saying of the prosecutors investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia: "They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV."
In his statement, Bannon, who was a senior Trump adviser until he was ousted in August, said: "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."
'I regret my delay'
Bannon said his comments about the meeting were influenced by his service as an officer on a naval destroyer tasked with hunting Soviet submarines during the Cold War.
His criticism, Bannon added, was aimed at onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, "a seasoned campaign professional" who "should have known (the Russians) are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends."
The closest Bannon comes to an apology is saying, "I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr. has diverted attention from the president's historical accomplishments."
The White House has turned its fire on Bannon since excerpts from the book came out last week.
Trump has taken to calling him "Sloppy Steve," tweeting on Friday that Bannon "cried when he got fired and begged for his job."
And Trump adviser Stephen Miller, speaking Sunday on CNN, called Bannon "vindictive" and "out of touch."
Following is Bannon's full 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 I 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.”