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Trump hits back at Steve Bannon: ‘When he was fired, he lost his mind’

President says former strategist ‘is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look’ as Bannon is quoted condemning Trump Tower meeting with Russians

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Trump hits back at Steve Bannon: ‘When he was fired, he lost his mind'” was written by Lauren Gambino, David Smith and Ben Jacobs in Washington, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 3rd January 2018 21.24 UTC

Donald Trump lashed out at his former chief strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday, accusing him of having “lost his mind” after the one-time aide made explosive accusations against the president and his family in a new book.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House.

“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 17 candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”

Critics pointed, however, to a tweet issued on 17 August 2017, in which Trump wrote: “I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton – it was great! Thanks S.”

Bannon was chief executive officer of the Trump campaign in its final three months and then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News.

According to Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Bannon told author Michael Wolff the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. He also reportedly made a range of claims about the likely targets and results of the investigation into Russian election meddling by the special counsel Robert Mueller.

In the book, which was obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, Wolff paints a picture of a White House in chaos, locked in internecine warfare with even some of Trump’s closest allies expressing contempt for him.

In his statement, which was issued after New York magazine published its own extensive excerpt of the Wolff book, Trump said: “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.

“Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

Wolff, a former Guardian columnist, told the Guardian in November that he had no agenda in writing the book but wanted to “find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling”. He enjoyed extraordinary access to Trump and senior officials and advisers, he said, sometimes at critical moments.

On Wednesday, one subject of conversations reported in Wolff’s book, billionaire Trump ally Tom Barrack, told the New York Times he had not made a reported abusive remark about the president.

Steve Bannon at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2017.
Steve Bannon at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February 2017.
Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a written statement that the book was “filled with false and misleading accounts” and was “trashy tabloid fiction”.

At her regular briefing later, she said Trump was “furious” at and “disgusted” by Bannon’s remarks. “Going after the president’s son in an absolutely outrageous way is probably not the best way to curry favour with anybody.”

She described the claim of treason against Trump Jr as “a ridiculous accusation” and pointed to an interview on CBS 60 Minutes in which Bannon had referred to allegations of collusion with Russia as a “farce”. She told reporters: “If anyone’s been inconsistent, it’s been him. It certainly hasn’t been the president or this administration.”

She claimed that Trump and Bannon last spoke in early December. Asked if the former chief strategist was off the list for social invitations to the White House, she replied dryly: “Probably so.”

Sanders claimed that Wolff had “never actually sat down with the president” while researching the book but just had “one brief conversation” of about five to seven minutes. She was also aware of just over a dozen interactions between Wolff and White House officials, “95%” of which were at Bannon’s request. “I know the book has a lot of things that are completely untrue,” she claimed.

Stephanie Grisham, communications director for the first lady, rejected claims in the book that Melania Trump cried when her husband won the presidency.

Donald Trump Jr also jumped into the fray, blasting Bannon in a series of tweets that blamed him for the election of the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in more than a generation.

“Thanks Steve. Keep up the great work,” Trump Jr said, replying to a reporter’s tweet about the swearing-in ceremony of Doug Jones.

Bannon declared a “season of war” on the Republican establishment and has threatened to run disruptive primary challengers against incumbent senators. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the Alabama special election, in which the controversial Republican Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, lost to Jones, demonstrates that Bannon’s anti-establishment candidates are unelectable.

After Trump released his statement on Bannon, McConnell’s re-election campaign account tweeted a gif of McConnell grinning.

Trump Jr added later: “Steve had the honor of working in the White House & serving the country. Unfortunately, he squandered that privilege & turned that opportunity into a nightmare of backstabbing, harassing, leaking, lying & undermining the President. Steve is not a strategist, he is an opportunist.”

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President

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(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris

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(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.

“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.

“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.

Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”

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U.S. Set To Announce New Sanctions On Six Individuals Linked To Hong Kong Mass Arrests

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WASHINGTON, Jan 15 (Reuters) – The United States is set to announce fresh sanctions on Friday on six individuals connected to the mass arrests earlier this month of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Hong Kong police on Jan. 5 arrested 53 people in dawn raids on democracy activists in the biggest crackdown since China last year imposed a security law which opponents say is aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony.

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo last week warned of fresh sanctions in response to the arrests of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. That warning came a day after supporters of Republican President Donald Trump on Jan. 6 stormed Congress in a bid to overturn his November election defeat, prompting China’s state media to accuse U.S. politicians of “double standards.”

Pompeo also said last week the United States would also explore restrictions against the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in the United States.

Action on Friday would come just days before Trump is due to leave office and be succeeded by Democrat Joe Biden next Wednesday and would be the latest in a series targeting China, which analysts see as a bid driven by Pompeo to lock in a tough approach to Beijing.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has pursued hard-line policies toward China on issues ranging from trade to espionage and the coronavirus. Relations plummeted to their worst level in decades when he ramped up rhetoric in his unsuccessful November re-election campaign.

His administration has already imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for their actions involving the pro-democracy movement and other alleged rights abuses, and last July declared an end to the territory’s privileged economic status under U.S. law.

The Trump administration took another swipe at China and its biggest companies on Thursday, imposing sanctions on officials and companies for alleged misdeeds in the South China Sea and imposing an investment ban on nine more firms.

Last Saturday, Pompeo said he was lifting restrictions on contacts between U.S. officials and counterparts in Taiwan, a move that greatly angered Beijing, which considers the island a renegade province. (Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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