WASHINGTON — Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley slammed the door on former chief West Wing strategist Steve Bannon on Monday. Speaking to reporters on board Air Force One, Gidley suggested he doesn’t believe there’s any way for Bannon to repair his relationship with President Trump.
“I don’t believe there is any way back for Mr. Bannon at this point,” Gidley said.
Gidley’s comments, which were made as Trump flew to Nashville, Tenn., for a speech, capped off days of feuding between Bannon and the White House. The back-and-forth began on Jan. 3, when the Guardian published excerpts of “Fire and Fury,” a book on the Trump White House by journalist Michael Wolff. In the excerpt, Bannon suggested that a meeting between the president’s son Don Jr. and a Kremlin-linked lawyer was “treasonous.” Bannon was also quoted as saying the special counsel’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government would likely focus on the finances of Jared Kushner, the president’s son in law. Both Kushner and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, are top White House advisers.
Within hours of the excerpt being published, Trump issued a lengthy statement in which he said Bannon “has nothing to do with me or my presidency.”
“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind,” said Trump, who has since repeatedly derided Bannon as “Sloppy Steve.”
Onboard Air Force One, Gidley doubled down on Trump’s past comments about Bannon.
“The president has been very clear on his thoughts; issued a four-paragraph statement about Mr. Bannon. Zero ambiguity in those statements,” said Gidley, later adding, “The president pointed to that and also pointed that Mr. Bannon is not in it for the country but instead in it for himself. And those statements still stand.”
Gidley indicated the president felt his family had been attacked by Bannon.
“When you go after somebody’s family, in the manner in which he did — two of the president’s children who are serving this nation, sacrificing in their service — it is repugnant, it is grotesque,” Gidley said of Bannon. “I challenge anybody to go and talk about someone else’s family and see if that person doesn’t come back and come back hard.”
Bannon’s comments are among many damaging allegations about the Trump administration that were included in Wolff’s book. In his statement, Trump accused Bannon, who was quoted extensively in the book, of having “helped” Wolff. The White House has repeatedly dismissed the book as inaccurate and Trump’s personal attorney sent the publisher a letter demanding they refrain from publishing it.
Gidley reiterated the administration’s position on the book in his comments on Air Force One.
“It was obvious that the book was false and fake,” he said.
Bannon, who is executive chairman of the conservative media company Breitbart News, exited the White House last August amid conflicting accounts of whether he was fired or left under his own accord following months of infighting with other top officials. After Trump’s scathing statement about his comments in Wolff’s book, Bannon attempted to smooth things over by issuing an apology to the website Axios on Sunday.
In his mea culpa, Bannon alluded to the work he has done to promote Republican candidates since leaving the White House.
“My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily,” said Bannon.
Bannon also suggested his comments about Don Jr. had been misconstrued and were actually a critique of Paul Manafort, who was running Trump’s campaign at the time of the meeting.
“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,” Bannon said.
Bannon did not respond to a request for comment on this story. However the seemingly irreparable tensions between Trump and Bannon have left the former White House strategist increasingly isolated. On Jan. 4, the day after the initial flap over Bannon’s comments in Wolff’s book, billionaire conservative donor Rebekah Mercer, released a rare public statement denouncing Bannon’s statements. (Mercer’s family has supported Bannon on Breitbart and other projects.)
“I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected,” said Mercer. “My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”
Since leaving the White House, Bannon has worked to support Republican candidates. His apparent break from the president and loss of the Mercer’s backing will make it harder for him to connect with the conservative base. And those close to the president doubt the bridge between Trump and Bannon can be rebuilt.
“I wouldn’t want to be Bannon these days,” one Trump ally said.
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