A friend and adviser of Donald Trump quoted in a controversial upcoming exposé of the White House calling the president “stupid” says the author put words in his mouth, casting doubt on other sensational claims that rocked the administration Wednesday, including that Trump didn’t want to win the election.
Thomas J. Barrack told the New York Times the quote attributed to him by Michael Wolff in “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is “totally false.”
Wolff quoted Barrack telling a friend that the president is “not only crazy, he’s stupid.”
But Barrack commented Wednesday: “It’s clear to anyone who knows me that those aren’t my words and inconsistent with anything I’ve ever said.”
Barrack told the Times that Wolff never vetted the quotation with him for accuracy.
Critics of Wolff noted that in a review of his 1997 book “Burn Rate,” the now defunct media-watchdog magazine Brill’s Content accused Wolff of “apparent factual errors” and said that more than a dozen of the subjects he mentioned in the book complained that Wolff had “invented or changed quotes.”
At the center of White House news Wednesday was President Trump’s response to charges in the book attributed to former chief strategist Steven Bannon, who Wolff claims called Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign “treasonous.”
Trump replied Wednesday with a sharp statement dismissing Bannon, who came aboard late in the campaign as chief executive and served for seven months in the White House, as a selfish figure of little influence who has “lost his mind.”
“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,” Trump said in emailed retort, reported Bloomberg News.
Trump said Bannon “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.” Trump said.
The president also blamed Bannon for losing the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama last month by supporting Roy Moore as the Republican nominee.
“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,” Trump said.
“Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”
Trump said Bannon “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,” Trump said.
The president said there are “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,” Trump wrote.
Trump was responding Wednesday to a report by the left-leaning Guardian newspaper of London quoting Bannon in Wolff’s upcoming book.
The book has Bannon describing the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic,” according to the Guardian.
WND reached out to Bannon for comment but has not received a response.
Bannon, writes Wolff, believes the special counsel investigation by Robert Mueller into alleged collusion by the Trump campaign with Russia has been all about money-laundering, and the path to implicating the president runs through his son, son-in-law and Manafort. Manafort, Trump’s one-time campaign manager, has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering related to his lobbying work in Ukraine before the campaign.
“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon told Wolff, the paper reported.
The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” is based on more than 200 interviews with the president, his inner circle and other players, the Guardian reported.
Bannon said, according to the paper’s account of the book, the FBI should have been notified immediately regarding the Russian contacts, but instead, “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.”
The former chief strategist commented “that’s the brain trust that they had.”
Bannon speculated, the Guardian reported, that Trump Jr. had involved his father in the meeting.
“The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” Bannon said.
On Wednesday, Manafort filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, claiming that Mueller overstepped his authority by filing criminal charges unrelated to the 2016 presidential campaign.
At the White House press briefing Wednesday, press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked if Trump met any of his sons Russian guests at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
“As the president has stated many times, no. And he wasn’t part or aware of that,” she said.
Donald Trump Jr. later responded in a tweet: “Steve had the honor of working in the White House & serving the country. Unfortunately, he squandered that privilege & turned that opportunity into a nightmare of backstabbing, harassing, leaking, lying & undermining the President. Steve is not a strategist, he is an opportunist.”
When Bannon resigned from his White House position in August 2017, he returned immediately to Breitbart News as chairman and went to “war on the Republican establishment,” vowing to challenge in primaries any GOP incumbent who won’t carry out Trump’s agenda. Trump praised Bannon upon his departure, tweeting: “I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton – it was great! Thanks S.”
Bannon ‘devoted to Trumpism’
Conservative columnist Kristin Tate, a former Breitbart News reporter, said in an interview Wednesday afternoon with the Fox News Channel that she believes Trump “looks really bad right now” for scorching Bannon.
Bannon is devoted to “Trumpism,” the president’s agenda, and “not necessarily to Trump the man,” she commented.
“So, when Bannon thinks Trump is making mistakes or not sticking to his promises, he’ll probably call Trump out on that,” she said. “Steve is an honest guy, he’s brilliant.”
Tate said she thought Trump made a mistake stating Bannon had nothing to do with his election victory, calling it “nonsense.”
“When Bannon came into the campaign, it was a disaster. Manafort had no idea how to control a candidate who was so unconventional, like Trump. Bannon came in there, he knew to let Trump be Trump, he knew how to connect Trump to his base,” she said.
“And when he was in the White House, Bannon served as probably Trump’s strongest tie to his own base.”
Sarah Sanders: ‘trashy tabloid fiction’
Sanders issued a statement before the press briefing slamming Wolff’s upcoming book as “trashy tabloid fiction” sourced by “false and misleading accounts” from people pushing “sad desperate attempts at relevancy.”
Later, she acknowledged to reporters that Wolff had more than a dozen interactions with individuals at the White House, which, as far as she knew, were done at the request of Bannon.
In an excerpt of the book published by New York magazine, Wolff asserted Trump didn’t want to win the election.
One controversial passage claims first lady Melania Trump cried in sadness when she learned of her husband’s election victory.
The first lady’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, calling the book “bargain fiction,” responded Wednesday, insisting Mrs. Trump was “very happy” about her husband’s victory.
At the White House briefing, Sanders was asked if she was surprised by Wolff’s contention that Trump didn’t want to win.
“It’s certainly surprising,” she replied. “I, for one, was somebody who very much believed the president could and would win. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have dedicated so much time to that. But, not only that, I’ve worked in the White House since the very first day, and a lot of the characterization that I saw that [Wolff] was pushing out was the opposite of what took place every day that I’ve been here.”
A 2004 cover story for The New Republic concluded Wolff was “uninterested in the working press,” preferring to focus on “the power players – the moguls” and was “fixated on culture, style, buzz, and money, money, money.” The author of the piece, Michelle Cottle, said “the scenes in his columns aren’t recreated so much as created – springing from Wolff’s imagination rather than from actual knowledge of events.”
She called his writing “a whirlwind of flourishes and tangents and asides that often stray so far from the central point that you begin to wonder whether there is a central point.”
New York Magazine, which formerly employed Wolff, has called him an “angry man for pay” and a “media provocateur.”
‘The base is extremely excited and happy’
Sanders was asked by reporters Wednesday what the rift between Trump and Bannon does to “the base” that elected the president.
“I don’t think it does anything to the president’s base,” she said. “The base and the people that supported this president supported the president and supported his agenda. Those things haven’t changed.”
Sanders said the president “is still exactly who he was yesterday as he was two years ago when he started out on the campaign trail.”
“And I think the base is extremely excited and happy with the job that this president has done in his first year in office,” she said. “Look at all he’s accomplished. I think they’re pretty happy with where he is.”
Weighing in on the feud, Matt Drudge of the highly influential Drudge Report, a supporter of Trump’s populist agenda, tweeted: “No wonder schizophrenic Steve Bannon has been walking around with a small army of bodyguards…”