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Bannon calls Trump Jr. meeting with Russians 'treasonous'; Trump says ex-adviser has lost his mind

Reuters Staff
January 03. 2018 1:37PM
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to chief strategist Steve Bannon during a swearing in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, U.S. Jan. 22, 2017. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo)



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has 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 of 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 said in the book in 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.”

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."
Trump statement on former White House strategist Bannon
WASHINGTON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday issued the following statement about former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who in a new book was quoted as calling a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians attended by the president's eldest son "treasonous."

"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. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.

"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. Yet 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.

"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.

"We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down."

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.

There was no immediate comment from the White House or 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, but after the Trump Tower meeting, and was chief White House strategist during the turbulent first eight months of Trump’s presidency.

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.

In the book, 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,” Bannon was quoted as saying.

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.

Additional reporting by Jim Oliphant; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham

 


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