Donald Trump with Steve Bannon
Donald Trump with Steve Bannon REUTERS

Former White House advisor and 2016 Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon issued an apology Sunday, writing in a statement to Axios that he ‘regretted’ not challenging reports last Wednesday that he had accused the president’s son and son-in-law of “treasonous” behavior.

Last Wednesday, New York Magazine published excerpts from USA Today writer Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which came out on Friday.

The book, which was slammed by the White House as “tabloid trash”, claimed that Bannon had excoriated the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, along with then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer.

According to Wolff, Bannon called the meeting “treasonous”, and claimed that Trump Jr. would be cracked “like an egg on national TV” over the get-together.

Without hours, President Trump issued a blistering four-paragraph response, claiming that Bannon had “lost his mind”.

In his written response, the president claimed that Bannon, who returned to Breitbart Newsafter his departure from the White House last year, had “lost his mind” after he was removed from his position.

“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve 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 continued.

“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. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself."

“Steve 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.

While Bannon declined to comment on the veracity of the quotes attributed to him, he struck a conciliatory tone in an interview Wednesday night, praising President Trump as “a great man”, and pledged his support for the president.

On Sunday, Bannon issued a statement to Axios, again praising President Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. While Bannon did not explicitly apologize in the statement, he denied the veracity of Wolff’s claims, arguing that he had been misquoted.

Bannon further expressed “regret” that he had failed to deny the quote sooner.

"Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man,” Bannon said. “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 am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism; and remain ready to stand in the breech for this president's efforts to make America great again.”

Bannon added that he had been misquoted in Fire and Fury, claiming that he had meant that Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, had behaved in a “treasonous” manner – not Kushner or Trump Jr.

“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."