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."
"I don't talk to him," Trump said Thursday of his former chief strategist.
Hitting back via 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 Wednesday.
It was a blistering attack against the man who helped deliver the presidency to Trump, 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.
Speaking to reporters before meeting with Republican senators Thursday, Trump noted Bannon had praised him on his radio show late Wednesday after Trump issued the statement. "He called me a great man last night," Trump said. "He obviously changed his tune pretty quick"
Late Wednesday, Trump attorney Charles Harder threatened legal action against Bannon over "disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements."
Harder sent Bannon a letter saying the former Trump aide 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.
Harder on Thursday sent cease-and-desist letters to Wolff and publisher Henry Holt and Co. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment.
Trump has a history of threatening to sue when he doesn't like something but rarely acts on those threats.
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 favor 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.
A spokeswoman for Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. 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!"