Today, Steve Bannon issued a statement expressing regret “that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding [Donald Trump Jr.] has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.” Bannon rejected the idea, attributed to him by Michael Wolff, that Trump Jr. did anything “treasonous” by meeting with Russians during the presidential campaign. He said his remarks were directed at Paul Manafort.
Bannon’s statement of regret followed sharp attacks against him by President Trump and the decision by his principle financial backer, Rebekah Mercer, to cut him off. They also came shortly after Stephen Miller bashed Bannon during an interview with Jake Tapper. Miller was a protege of Bannon, at least in Bannon’s view.
Here is Bannon’s statement:
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.
My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I am the only person to date to conduct a global effort to preach the message of Trump and Trumpism, and I remain ready to stand in the breach for this president’s efforts to make America great again.
My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years, when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire,’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.
My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.
Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my ‘60 Minutes’ interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.
I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr. has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.
Rich Lowry characterizes this statement as “groveling” and he isn’t wrong. However, I consider it a limited, modified grovel, as Richard Nixon might say.
Keep in mind that Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t the only Trump family member blasted by Bannon, at least in Wolff’s telling. Bannon also ripped Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Wolff says Bannon described Ivanka as “dumb as a brick” and predicted that she would bring down her father. He also says Bannon told him Robert Mueller will end up digging up dirt on money laundering involving Kushner. “The Kushner shit is greasy; they’re going to go right through that,” Bannon is quoted as predicting.
Bannon’s statement of regret doesn’t mention Kushner or Ivanka (Jivanka, as he supposedly called them). It only mentions Donald Jr. I suspect that’s because Bannon doesn’t have anything against Jr. but continues to hold a grudge against “Jivanka”.
But what of Bannon’s claim that his charge of treason was directed only against Manafort? He explains that Manafort, “a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. . .should have known they are duplicitous.” The inference is that Donald Jr. had no reason to know this, so his participation was not treasonous. (It’s not clear whether Bannon thinks the same defense applies to Kushner, who was also at the meeting).
Bannon is saying that Donald Jr. wasn’t smart or experienced enough to realize what the Russian’s were up to. Jr. was, in effect, a babe in the woods.
This is not a flattering picture of the president’s son. Nor is the naivety defense Trump’s position on the Russia meeting. Trump rejects the idea that there was anything treasonous about the meeting (and he is right).
I imagine the president will be gratified to see Bannon retreating. However, I doubt he will deem this limited, modified grovel sufficient.