WHITE HOUSE —
U.S. President Donald Trump has disavowed granting White House access to Michael Wolff, author of a book to be published Friday, that portrays a chaotic initial year for the president. In a tweet late Thursday, the president also gave Steve Bannon, who ran Trump’s presidential campaign in its final quarter, a new nickname.
Earlier Thursday, the White House press secretary had to field a barrage of questions for a second consecutive day from reporters about the book.
Most people in the United States could “probably care less about a book full of lies,” responded Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who characterized Fire and Fury as “trash” and something “a fired employee wanted to peddle.”
That fired employee is Bannon was also chief strategist in the White House for the initial seven months of Trump’s presidency.
Bannon is quoted extensively by Wolff in the 336-page book.
Asked if Breitbart News should fire Bannon, who is executive chairman of the right-wing news and opinion website, Sanders replied, “I certainly think it’s something they should look at and consider.”
A lawyer for the president on Thursday sought to block publication of the book, contending it is defamatory and libelous, demanding Wolff and his publisher, Henry Holt and Co., stop the release of the book. It originally had been scheduled to be released Tuesday, but Wolff said Thursday it now would arrive in bookstores Friday — four days early.
Charles Harder said his legal team is “investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements” made about Trump in the book that Wolff said came from more than 200 interviews he conducted during Trump’s successful election campaign and after the president took office a year ago.
Harder, the previous day, also sent a cease-and-desist letter to Bannon, demanding that he stop making defamatory remarks about Trump and his family.
On Thursday, Trump said, “He [Bannon] called me a great man last night, so he obviously changed his tune pretty quick.”
The White House says President Trump is not trying to block anyone’s constitutional protection of freedom of speech through the legal threats.
“The president absolutely believes in the First Amendment,” responded Huckabee Sanders to a reporter’s question at Thursday’s media briefing. “But as we’ve said before, the president also believes in making sure that information is accurate before pushing it out as fact when it certainly and clearly is not.”
In the most controversial passage in the book, Bannon is quoted saying he thought it “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., along with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, now a White House adviser, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, met with Russians in the midst of the campaign at Trump Tower in New York. The younger Trump had been promised by an intermediary for the Russians that he would be handed incriminatingdocuments about Trump’s election challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton, as part of Moscow’s effort to help Trump win, although Trump, Jr. subsequently said no such damaging evidence materialized.
Within hours of the surfacing of excerpt from the book, Trump said in a statement on Wednesday, “Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”
Trump said that Bannon was “only in it for himself” and “spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was” at the same time that he had declared war on the media.
Bannon also is quoted as saying that Trump, Jr. will “crack like an egg” under the pressure of the investigations into meddling by Russia in the last U.S. presidential election.
On Thursday, White House officials continued to attack Wolff’s credibility, accusing him of having a record of misquoting interview subjects and inventing scenarios.
“This is a practice he is used to doing,” claimed Huckabee Sanders, describing Wolff’s latest book as “mistake after mistake after mistake.”
Ken Bredemeier and Masood Farivar contributed to this report.