Trump 'still angry' despite Bannon's apology

Journalist Michael Wolff's new book on Mr Donald Trump on display in a Washington bookstore. Former chief strategist Stephen Bannon was quoted in the book as saying that a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians attended by Mr Donald Trump Jr and
Journalist Michael Wolff's new book on Mr Donald Trump on display in a Washington bookstore. Former chief strategist Stephen Bannon was quoted in the book as saying that a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians attended by Mr Donald Trump Jr and his father's top presidential campaign officials was "treasonous" and "unpatriotic".PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Aides say US President demands supporters take sides in fallout over new book

WASHINGTON • Mr Stephen Bannon's apology for his comments trashing Mr Donald Trump's family did little to tamp down the President's anger at his former chief strategist, as aides describe Mr Trump demanding a stark choice from supporters of both men: You're either with Bannon, or with me. 

Mr Trump's aides are tracking who came out with full-throated criticism of Mr Bannon over the weekend, and they put out the word that the President is keeping score. 

Mr Trump remains irritated over losing the first week of the year to titillating excerpts from the book Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House by journalist Michael Wolff, which is focused on the President and his purportedly dysfunctional White House.

The book quotes Mr Bannon as saying a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians attended by Mr Donald Trump Jr and his father's top campaign officials was "treasonous" and "unpatriotic".

Mr Bannon said in a statement released on Sunday that his support for Mr Trump and his agenda was "unwavering".

He did not deny making the comments in the book, but said they were directed at Mr Paul Manafort, Mr Trump's former presidential campaign manager, and were not aimed at the President's son.

AIDES, ALLIES COME TO TRUMP'S DEFENCE

What US President Donald Trump's aides and allies have said in his defence while slamming both Fire And Fury author Michael Wolff and estranged strategist Stephen Bannon:


MENTAL FITNESS NOT IN DOUBT

I've never questioned his mental fitness.

US SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON, whose office was last year forced to deny reports that he had referred to Mr Trump as a "moron" after a national security meeting, told CNN last Friday. He added: "I have no reason to question his mental fitness."


CONTRARY TO REALITY

It (Fire And Fury) reads like an angry, vindictive person spouting off to a highly discredible author.

TRUMP SENIOR POLICY ADVISER STEPHEN MILLER, to CNN on Sunday. "The book is best understood as a work of poorly written fiction. The author is a garbage author of a garbage book... The betrayal of the President in this book is so contrary to the reality of those who work with him."


SAD, PATHETIC BOOK

The book is sad, pathetic, and our administration, our focus, is going to be on moving the country forward.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, at a briefing last week. She told Fox News last Friday, referring to Wolff: "This is a guy who made up a lot of stories to try to sell books."


ASKS HARD QUESTIONS

The President is engaged, he understands the complexity, he asks really difficult questions of our team at the CIA.

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY DIRECTOR MIKE POMPEO, to Fox News Sunday. He also described Mr Trump as an "avid consumer" of the agency's intelligence.


ACCURACY IN QUESTION

There is no question that the accuracy of this book is definitely in question.

FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER, to cable channel HLN. He asserted that several quotes attributed to him and to other people "frankly never happened".


SUPPORTING TRUMP'S PLATFORM

I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected.

BILLIONAIRE TRUMP SUPPORTER REBEKAH MERCER, in a statement last week. "My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST, BLOOMBERG

"Donald Trump Jr is both a patriot and a good man," the statement said.

"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," Mr Bannon said.

He may have hoped his apology would begin to put the episode behind him. But half a dozen sources describe almost the exact opposite.

Mr Trump remains angry and is forcing a him-or-me moment inside Trump World and the Republican Party as a whole. 

"I don't know if it's ever repairable," said Mr Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, who has been friends with Mr Bannon for two decades.

The President's top policy adviser, Mr Stephen Miller, on Sunday called Mr Bannon an "angry, vindictive person" whose "grotesque comments are so out of touch with reality".

Mr Miller was once closely aligned with Mr Bannon. As of Sunday night, no one from the White House had directly reached out to Mr Bannon since the fallout, people familiar with the matter said.

Meanwhile Mr Wolff, the author, refuted Mr Bannon's statement in an interview with MSNBC yesterday. "(Mr Bannon's comment) was not directed at Manafort, it was directed directly at Don Jr," Mr Wolff said, adding that he is "grateful" for the time and insights Mr Bannon gave him for the book.

The ugly spat between Mr Bannon and President Trump - Mr Bannon served as campaign chief executive after Mr Manafort was dismissed and was widely credited with helping Mr Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton - has threatened to distract the White House from its policy agenda in an election year.

Mr Bannon had planned to use his continuing clout with the President, along with the Breitbart News Network, to advance his own nationalist agenda, including threatening to try to unseat Republican incumbents who did not support his hardline immigration and anti-globalisation positions.

Now even his outside supporters, including financier Rebekah Mercer who had helped bankroll many of Mr Bannon's initiatives, have distanced themselves from him.

BLOOMBERG, NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'Trump 'still angry' despite Bannon's apology'. Print Edition | Subscribe