President Trump’s lawyers have sent a cease-and-desist letter to former White House chief strategist Steven Bannon, accusing him of libel, slander and breach of a confidentiality agreement, according to ABC News.
The letter warns of “imminent” legal action.
The dispute developed Wednesday after the release of excerpts from a coming book by Michael Wolff in which Bannon allegedly called a June 2016 meeting involving Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer “treasonous.”
Attorney Charles Harder of the firm Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP announced in a statement a “legal notice was issued today to Stephen K. Bannon, that his actions of communicating with author Michael Wolff regarding an upcoming book give rise to numerous legal claims including defamation by libel and slander, and breach of his written confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement with our clients. Legal action is imminent.”
In the letter to Bannon, Harder wrote: “You have breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company, disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company, knowing that they would be included in Mr. Wolff’s book and publicity surrounding the marketing and sale of his book.”
The attorney continued, “Remedies for your breach of the agreement include but are not limited to monetary damages, injunctive relief and all other remedies available at law and equity.”
During the run-up to the 2016 election, Trump had his campaign staff sign a non-disclosure agreement that required them to withhold any disparaging comments about Trump, his family or the Trump campaign,
The relationship between Trump and Bannon has deteriorated quickly. Wednesday brought news that Bannon had lambasted Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort for meeting a group of Russians who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
Wolff claims in his book “Fire and Fury” that Bannon called the meeting “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”
The book’s accuracy already has been undermined, with a statement from a friend and adviser of Trump that Wolff fabricated a quote from him in the book, as
Wolff also previously was accused of making numerous factual errors and inventing or changing quotes in his 1997 book “Burn Rate.”
However, Wolff may have tapes of some of the interviews he conducted for the new book. Axios reported that Wolff recorded his interviews with several officials, including Bannon and former White House deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh.
In some cases, officials thought they were giving off-the-record interviews,
Trump, for his part, wasted no time in firing back at Bannon.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” the president said in a statement. “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. Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than 30 years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”
Trump was referring to Bannon’s support for Roy Moore in the GOP Senate primary against Luther Strange, who was endorsed by Trump and the entire GOP establishment. After Moore won the primary with Bannon’s help, claims of sexual misconduct led to a general election victory for Democrat Doug Jones.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Trump his reaction to Bannon “was perfect and he wouldn’t change a word,” a person familiar with the discussion said.
Meanwhile, at the White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called Bannon’s accusation of treason “ridiculous.” Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush, took delight in Trump’s response, telling Fox News the president had administered “a 2X4 to the head of Steve Bannon.”
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., tweeted: “Congrats to Trump for pulverizing loud mouth self promoter Bannon. Time for Bannon to disappear or find work in a circus.”
However, Bannon responded to Trump’s tirade against him not with more vitriol but by calling the president a
“You know I support him day in and day out,” Bannon added on his Sirius XM show “Breitbart News Tonight.”
Nevertheless, some people in Trump’s orbit think Bannon has permanently fallen from grace and his relationship with Trump may be beyond repair. One former Trump adviser told The Hill that Bannon has “lost his financial backers, he lost his power in Alabama and now he’s lost Trump – so how long can you go?”
A Republican strategist with close ties to the administration said, “When Trump is blaming him for losing a Senate race and not giving credit for the White House victory, it’s questionable about whether Bannon survives this.”