Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon called the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer purportedly offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton “treasonous,” according to a new book obtained by The Guardian.
The book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, is based on hundreds of interviews, including ones with President Donald Trump and his inner circle. According to the Guardian, Bannon addressed the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Russian operatives that was arranged when Trump Jr. agreed to meet a “Russian government attorney” after receiving an email offering him “very high level and sensitive information” that would “incriminate” Clinton.
“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 continued, according to the Guardian. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
Bannon also reportedly told Wolff: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
An attorney for Trump Jr. declined to comment. But the President unloaded on Bannon in a statement early Wednesday afternoon.
“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. “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,” added the President.
Bannon also reportedly told Wolff that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia is centered on money laundering, saying that the White House is “sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five” hurricane.
“You realize where this is going … This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose (senior prosecutor Andrew) Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy,” Bannon reportedly said. “Their path to f***ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr., and Jared Kushner … It’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
Bannon said he believes Kushner, the White House senior adviser and the President’s son-in-law, could be convinced to cooperate if Mueller probes his financial records.
“They’re going to go right through that. They’re going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me,” Bannon is reported as saying, apparently referring to Trump Jr. and Kushner.
The Trump Tower meeting has been of intense interest to the congressional Russia investigators as well as Mueller.
Trump Jr. testified before House investigators last month but would not say what he and his father discussed after reports surfaced about the meeting, citing attorney-client privilege.
In a New York magazine story adapted from his soon-to-be published book, Wolff wrote Wednesday that former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn had been advised by friends that taking thousands of dollars from Russians for a speech was a bad idea.
“Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn reportedly told them.
Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his contact with the Russian ambassador.
An attorney for Flynn did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
In another section of the New York magazine article, Wolff describes a dinner meeting during the presidential transition between ousted Fox News head Roger Ailes and Bannon. During the meeting, Ailes asked Bannon what Trump had “gotten himself into with the Russians.”
“Mostly, he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a s*** about him. So he’s kept trying,” Bannon said, according to Wolff’s story.