WASHINGTON — In a statement Sunday, former White House strategist Steve Bannon claimed that he did not intend to directly criticize Donald Trump Jr. for taking a meeting with a Russian attorney, but Michael Wolff, the author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” told MSNBC Monday that this was not the case.
Shortly before the book was published, an excerpt appeared in the Guardian in which Bannon appeared to suggest that the meeting, which was portrayed by Trump Jr. as a failed bid to get opposition research on Hillary Clinton, was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
The comments kicked off what would turn into a West Wing-wide effort to disavow the former staffer, which included President Donald Trump claiming that Bannon “lost his mind” after leaving the White House.
On Sunday, Bannon issued an apologetic statement claiming that the comments were instead directed at former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, who Bannon described as 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,” Bannon said. “To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
Bannon had also described Trump, Jr. as “both a patriot and a good man.”
Speaking to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Wolff countered the statement’s claim.
“I’m grateful for the time [Bannon] gave me, the insights he gave me and I don’t want to put him in more hot water than he’s already in,” Wolff said. “It was not directed at Manafort, it was directed directly at Don,Jr.”
Bannon, who has returned to his position as executive chairman at Breitbart News after initially leaving to serve as CEO of the Trump campaign, said in his statement that he regretted the four-day delay in his response to Wolff’s book.