TrumpWatch, Day 353: Bannon Backs Off Confrontation with Trump


Trump camp tries to seize offensive amid furor over Wolff book

Developments on Day 353 of the Trump Administration:

Bannon Pulls Back from Accusation Over Trump-Russia

Amid the furor over a tell-all book about Donald Trump and his inner circle and questions about Trump’s mental stability, hard-right activist Steve Bannon — former White House chief strategist and executive officer of Breitbart — has pulled back from confrontation over his remarks about the Trump camp and the Trump-Russia affair.

In Michael Woolf’s book, Bannon adds to the already-extensive doubts about Trump’s ability to take in information and — more importantly — confirmed the line of the Trump-Russia inquiry by calling Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” over their meeting with three Kremlin-linked envoys in Trump Tower in June 2016 — a meeting set up to discuss a Russian offer of material damaging to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

However, Bannon faced pressure as the book’s extracts circulated, including a warning from his patron, the family of billionaire Robert Mercer.

After Trump’s camp continued the attack on Sunday morning political talk shows, with an appearance by former Bannon protégé and current White House advisor Stephen Miller, Bannon said his “treasonous” reference was only to Manafort, who is under indictment for finance, tax, and lobbying charges linked to the Trump-Russia inquiry.

Bannon said Trump Jr. is “both a patriot and a good man”. In contrast, he wrote that Manafort “should have known [the Russians] are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends”.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Sr. — whose lawyers not only failed to block publication of the book but prompted the advance of its publication to last Friday === continued to fume, a day after he condemned “Sloppy Steve”:

Miller, whom Bannon helped elevate into a leading attacker for the hard right, turned on him in a Sunday interview as “tragic”, “out of touch with reality”, “vindictive”, and “grotesque”. In an ill-tempered exchange on CNN, he was upset by the suggestion that he was a Bannon creation.

The advisor, a leading force behind the Muslim Ban and assaults on immigration including threats of deportation, upheld Trump’s self-promotion on Saturday as a “very stable genius”. Miller said Trump is a “political genius” who can recite complete paragraphs on the fly in response to news events and then deliver them “flawlessly” to a campaign audience.

CNN host Jake Tapper said Miller was speaking to an “audience of one”, a reaction borne out by a Trump tweet:

Other Administration officials and allies also praised Trump in an all-out attempt to push back on months-long claims — including by leading Republicans — that the President cannot handle basic information and is unstable.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said he had no concerns about Trump’s ability to receive and process intelligence:

Senator Lindsey Graham, who called Trump a “kook” last year, said yesterday, “I don’t think he’s crazy. I think he’s had a very successful 2017. And I want to help him where I can. And we should all want him to be successful. He’s got a lot on his plate.”

Sam Nunberg — a campaign aide cited in Woolf’s book that Trump could not get past the 4th Amendment in a description of the Constitution without getting bored and losing attention, said, “The reality is people want the pPresident to deliver, and this is a side show.”

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