'Fire and Fury' book blows open GOP feud
The acrimony surrounding former White House adviser Steve Bannon's very public break with United States President Donald Trump is escalating, suggesting a permanent split between the president and the pugilistic strategist who helped put him in the Oval Office.
The new fissure in an already fractious Republican Party cast doubt on Bannon's hopes to foment a movement centred on 'Trumpism without Trump'.
It already has cost him a key backer. Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire GOP donor and Breitbart co-owner, issued a statement Thursday distancing her family from Bannon.
"I support President Trump and the platform upon which he was elected," she said. "My family and I have not communicated with Steve Bannon in many months and have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements."
Trump hailed that move on Twitter yesterday, saying: "The Mercer Family recently dumped the leaker known as Sloppy Steve Bannon. Smart!"
White House officials described the president as furious at Bannon's criticisms, laid out in an explosive new book that quoted the former aide as questioning Trump's competence and describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic".
On Twitter Thursday night, Trump said the book was full of "lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist." He also came up with a new nickname for Bannon: "Sloppy Steve."
A parade of administration officials and allies worked to discredit Bannon as a disgruntled has-been. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders went so far as to suggest that Bannon ought to be booted from Breitbart, the populist website he helps run.
"I certainly think that it's something they should look at and consider," she said.
Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, spoke on NBC's 'Today Show' Friday, defending his reporting and saying the president's efforts to halt publication have been good for sales.
Asked about Bannon's comments in the book and in recent days, Wolff said: "The president has tried to put this, this book is about Steve Bannon. So let me say very forthrightly: This book is not about Steve Bannon. This book is about Donald Trump."