President Donald Trump has said he no longer speaks with former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who savaged his administration in a new book.
Mr Trump told reporters on Thursday, “I don‘t talk to him”, before he began a White House meeting with Republican senators on immigration reform.
Mr Bannon questioned Mr Trump‘s fitness for office and made scandalous allegations against the president and his family in excerpts of the book, Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House, by Michael Wolff.
As the bombshell book surfaced on Wednesday, Mr Trump unleashed on Mr Bannon in a statement, saying he had “lost his mind”.
Speaking at the White House today, Mr Trump said Mr Bannon spoke positively of him Wednesday night on his Breitbart radio show.
Mr Trump noted: “He called me a great man last night.”
The president added that his counter-attack had its desired outcome, saying: “He obviously changed his tune pretty quick.”
On Wednesday Mr Trump was scathing about his former ally over the new book which portrays the US president as an undisciplined man-child who did not actually want to win the White House and quotes his former adviser as calling his son‘s with a Russian lawyer “treasonous”.
Hitting back via a formal White House statement rather than a more-typical Twitter volley, Mr Trump insisted that Mr 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,” he said on Wednesday.
The blistering attack against Mr Bannon was sparked by an unflattering new book by Wolff which paints Mr Trump as a leader who does not understand the weight of the presidency and spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the phone to old friends.
Later on Wednesday, Mr Trump‘s lawyer, Charles Harder, threatened legal action against the former aide over “disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements”.
Mr Harder wrote to Mr Bannon, saying he had violated confidentiality agreements by speaking to Mr Wolff.
His letter demanded Mr Bannon “cease and desist” any further disclosure of confidential information.
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 January 9 publication date.
The release left Mr 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 had specifically prompted the president‘s fury with Mr 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 favour with anybody.”
In the book, an advance copy of which was provided to the Associated Press, Mr 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.
Mr Bannon also told Mr Wolff that investigations into potential collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials were likely to focus on money laundering.
“They‘re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV,” Mr Bannon was quoted as saying in one section which was first reported by the Guardian.
A spokeswoman for Mr Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
Mr Trump Jr lashed out in a series of tweets, including one that said Andrew Breitbart, the founder of the Breitbart News site which Mr Bannon now runs, “would be ashamed of the division and lies Steve Bannon is spreading!”
Mr Bannon, who was forced out of his White House job last summer, was not surprised or particularly bothered by the backlash, according to a source.
The source said Mr Bannon vowed on Wednesday to continue his war on the Republican establishment and also predicted that, after a cooling-off period, he would continue to speak with Mr Trump, who likes to maintain with former advisers even after he fires and sometimes disparages them.
Ms Sanders said the two men last spoke in the first part of last month.
The former-and-current Breitbart News head has told associates that he believes Mr Trump has been ill-served by some his closest allies, including eldest son Don Jr and Jared Kushner, the president‘s son-in-law.
Mr Bannon believes they have exposed Mr Trump to the Russia probe that could topple his presidency and that Mr Trump would be able to accomplish more without them.