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Bannon Expresses Regret for Role in Book Critical of White House -- Update

7 Jan 2018 9:31 pm
By Harriet Torry and Rebecca Ballhaus 

WASHINGTON -- Former Trump senior strategist Stephen Bannon expressed regret Sunday for his role in a new book critical of the Trump administration as senior White House officials sharpened the administration's attack on it.

"My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda," Mr. Bannon said in the statement. "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 didn't dispute his quotations in the book.

The book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff, quotes Mr. Bannon as speculating whether Donald Trump Jr. may have introduced his father to those who attended a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin and top campaign aides. "The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father's office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero," the book said. President Donald Trump has said he wasn't aware of the meeting during the campaign.

Mr. Bannon in the book also sharply criticized Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a White House adviser, and her husband, Jared Kushner, also a top Trump aide. Mr. Wolff's book also quoted Mr. Bannon as calling the June 2016 meeting "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."

In his statement Sunday, which was first reported by Axios, Mr. Bannon expressed "regret" to the Trump family and praised Donald Trump Jr. as "both a patriot and a good man."

"There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt," Mr. Bannon added, referring to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Donald Trump Jr. has denied he did anything wrong in agreeing to the 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, in which the campaign had been promised negative information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The meeting has become a focus of Mr. Mueller's investigation into Moscow's meddling and whether Trump campaign aides worked with the Kremlin in the interference. Mr. Trump has said his campaign didn't collude with Russia, and Moscow has denied interfering in the U.S. election.

After Mr. Bannon's quotes in the book surfaced last week, the president publicly repudiated his former strategist, saying he "has nothing to do with me or my Presidency."

The feud with Mr. Trump has threatened Mr. Bannon's leadership at the conservative website Breitbart News. People close to that company said Mr. Bannon's statement was likely aimed at helping him stay in his post as chairman, as its board has debated in recent days whether to oust him from that role.

"For Bannon to publicly humble himself like this is a measure of how desperate and dire his situation has become," said Kurt Bardella, a former spokesman for Breitbart. "How President Trump and his family react to it will likely be the final arbiter on whether or not Steve gets to stay at Breitbart or not. If Trump signals his forgiveness, Bannon will likely get a stay of execution. If Trump demands his scalp, hard to imagine he wouldn't get it."

The White House didn't return a request for comment on Mr. Bannon's statement. A spokeswoman for Mr. Bannon didn't respond to a question about whether he would stay in his role at Breitbart.

For his part, Mr. Wolff defended his book from criticism about alleged reporting errors. When asked about that on NBC's "Meet The Press," Mr. Wolff said, "I think I mixed up a Mike Berman and a Mark Berman. For that I apologize. But the book speaks for itself."

One claim made in the book is that White House advisers have had concerns about Mr. Trump's fitness for the presidency, in particular about his "alarming repetitions."

Mr. Trump rejected those claims at a Camp David press briefing and in tweets on Saturday, saying that "throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart."

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the new book by Mr. Wolff raises concerns about the president's capacity to do the job.

"I don't think there's anyone in Congress frankly of either party who does not concur at least privately with those observations and concerns, " Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said on CNN's "State of the Union."

--Thomas M. Burton contributed to this article.

Write to Harriet Torry at harriet.torry@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com
 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 07, 2018 16:31 ET (21:31 GMT)

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