WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump launched a scathing attack on former top adviser Steve Bannon, responding to a new book that portrays Trump as an undisciplined man-child who didn’t actually want to win the White House and quotes Bannon as calling his son’s contact with a Russian lawyer “treasonous”.

Hitting back via a formal White House statement rather than a more typical Twitter volley, Trump insisted Bannon had little to do with his victorious campaign and “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 on Wednesday.

It was a blistering attack against the man who helped deliver the presidency to Trump. It was spurred by an unflattering new book by writer Michael Wolff that paints Trump as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of the presidency and spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the phone to old friends.

Later on Wednesday, Trump’s attorney Charles Harder threatened legal action against Bannon over “disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements”.

Harder sent a letter to Bannon saying the former Trump aide had violated confidentiality agreements by speaking with Wolff. The letter demanded Bannon “cease and desist” any further disclosure of confidential information. Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

White House aides were blindsided when early excerpts from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” were published online by New York magazine and other media outlets ahead of the Jan 9 publication date.

The release left Trump “furious” and “disgusted”, said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee San­ders, who complained that the book contained “outrageous” and “compl­e­tely false claims against the president, his administration and his family”.

Asked what specifically had prompted the president’s fury with Bannon, she said: “I would certainly think that going after the president’s son in an absolutely outrageous and unprecedented way is probably not the best way to curry favour with anybody.”

In the book, an advance copy of which was provided to The Associated Press, Bannon is quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr, Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”.

The meeting has become a focus of federal and congressional investigators.

Bannon also told Wolff the investigations into potential collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials would likely focus on money laundering.

“They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Bannon was quoted as saying in one section that was first reported by The Guardian.

Trump Jr lashed out in a series of tweets, including one that said Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the Breitbart News site that Bannon now runs, “would be ashamed of the division and lies Steve Bannon is spreading!”

Bannon, who was forced out of his White House job last summer, was not surprised or particularly bothered by the blowback, according to a person familiar with his thinking but not authorised to speak publicly on the matter.

That person said Bannon vowed on Wednesday to continue his war on the Republican establishment and also predicted that, after a cooling-off period, he’d continue to speak with Trump, who likes to maintain contact with former advisers even after he fires and sometimes disparages them.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2018

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