After excerpts from an upcoming book on the disarray in Donald Trump’s administration were published on Wednesday—containing morsels like Steve Bannon repeatedly insulting Trump’s intelligence and calling his oldest son’s infamous Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer “treasonous”—the White House responded with a stunning statement firing back at the president’s former top adviser.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” the statement read. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Trump went on to portray Bannon, his former campaign chairman who transformed Breitbart into a de facto propaganda arm for his candidacy, as a loser and a liar, saying he “had little to do with our historic victory” and pointing out Bannon’s going all-in on failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore.
“Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, he spent his time at the White House leaking false administration to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was,” the statement continued.
Trump’s scathing remarks come after excerpts of media gadfly Michael Wolff’s new book were published by The Guardian and New York magazine. Wolff apparently conducted more than 200 interviews for the book, dubbed Fire and Fury, which is out January 9. Trump family insiders were reportedly prepared for its telling to be unflattering, despite giving Wolff unparalleled access to the West Wing, but were still caught off guard by quotes attributed to Bannon going after Don Jr. (who he said would be cracked “like an egg on national TV”), suggesting Jared Kushner has tracked through legally murky financial waters, and Trump himself.
But it’s worth taking everything Wolff says at somewhat less than face value. Journalists are already pointing out several glaringly dubious anecdotes in the excerpts—like Trump responding “Who’s that?” at a mention of John Boehner, the former House Speaker he for years publicly criticized—which seem like a stretch even for this administration.
As for a earth-shaking civil war between the Trump and Bannon factions of the far-right, their goals remain broadly aligned, and Bannon himself said in September that the two are in frequent contact. In other words: I’ll believe it when I see it.