WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News/AP) — Steve Bannon is trying to make amends.
President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist released a statement Sunday reaffirming his support for the commander in chief and praising Trump’s eldest son as “both a patriot and a good man.”READ MORE: Funeral Held For NYPD Det. Jason Rivera, 22-Year-Old Killed In Line Of Duty In Harlem
Bannon infuriated Trump with comments to author Michael Wolff describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
Bannon said his description was aimed at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting, and not Trump’s son.
“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,” according to the statement, first obtained by the news site Axios. Bannon said his support for Trump and his agenda was “unwavering.”
Hours before the statement came out, administration officials used appearances on the Sunday news shows to rally behind Trump and try to undermine Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” which portrays the 45th president as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides.
Chief policy adviser Stephen Miller, in a combative appearance on CNN, described the book as “nothing but a pile of trash through and through.”
He also criticized Bannon, who is quoted at length by Wolff, saying it was “tragic and unfortunate” that Bannon “would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who said Trump was “completely fit” to lead the country, said he paused before answering because it was such “a ludicrous question.”
“These are from people who just have not accepted the fact that President Trump is the United States president and I’m sorry for them in that,” Pompeo told “Fox News Sunday.” He gives Trump his regular intelligence briefings.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that she is at the White House once a week, and “no one questions the stability of the president.”
“I’m always amazed at the lengths people will go to, to lie for money and for power. This is like taking it to a whole new low,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”
To Miller, “the portrayal of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experience of those who work with him.”
Miller’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” quickly grew heated, with Miller criticizing CNN’s coverage and moderator Jake Tapper pressing Miller to answer his questions.
Tapper abruptly ended the interview, saying: “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”
Soon after, Trump tweeted: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”
Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to defend his fitness for office, insisting he is “like, really smart” and, indeed, a “very stable genius.” He pressed the case again on Sunday as he prepared to depart Camp David for the White House.
“I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author,” he tweeted.READ MORE: Nor'easter Triggers Blizzard Warning In Suffolk County, As New York Braces For Widespread Snowfall
Wolff’s book draws a derogatory portrait of Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and who spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the telephone to old friends.
The book also quotes Bannon and other prominent advisers as questioning the president’s competence.
Chatter about Trump’s mental fitness for office has intensified in recent months on cable news shows and among Democrats in Congress.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders this past week called such suggestions “disgraceful and laughable.”
“If he was unfit, he probably wouldn’t be sitting there and wouldn’t have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen,” she said, calling him “an incredibly strong and good leader.”
Trump and some aides have attacked Wolff’s credibility, pointing to the fact that the book includes a number of factual errors and denying that the author had as much access as he claimed.
“He said he interviewed me for three hours in the White House. It didn’t exist, OK? It’s in his imagination,” Trump said Saturday.
Wolff told NBC on Sunday that “I truly do not want to say the president is a liar,” but that he had indeed spoken with Trump for about three hours during and since the campaign.
Trump has repeatedly invoked Ronald Reagan, tweeting Sunday that the former president “had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”
Reagan died in 2004, at age 93, from pneumonia complicated by the Alzheimer’s disease that had progressively clouded his mind. At times when he was president, Reagan seemed forgetful and would lose his train of thought while talking.
Doctors, however, said Alzheimer’s was not to blame, noting the disease was diagnosed years after he left office. Reagan announced his diagnosis in a letter to the American people in 1994, more than five years after leaving the White House.
Below is Bannon’s statement in full:
Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.
My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I have always been — and remain — ready and willing to stand in the breech for this presidency and the administration’s effort to make America great again.
My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.
My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, 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. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.
Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.
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.MORE NEWS: TIMELINE: Nor'easter Could Bring More Than A Foot Of Snow To Long Island & Jersey Shore; Up To 8 Inches To NYC
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)