By JILL COLVIN and CATHERINE LUCEY
WASHINGTON (AP) — The author of an explosive new book that questions President Donald Trump’s fitness for office on Monday contradicted Steve Bannon’s explanation of comments that had angered his former boss. The book publisher said any effort by Trump to suppress the book would be “flagrantly unconstitutional.”
Michael Wolff, author of “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” took issue with a Bannon mea culpa issued Sunday, in which Trump’s former chief strategist sought to make amends for his comments.
In the book, Bannon describes a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., senior campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.” The reference angered the president, who last week lashed out at Bannon, saying he “lost his mind.”
Bannon sought to make amends Sunday, saying in statement his description wasn’t aimed at Trump’s son but at former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
But Wolff told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “it was not directed at Manafort, it was directed directly at Don. Jr.”
Meanwhile, the publisher of “Fire and Fury” said any efforts to suppress the book are “flagrantly unconstitutional.”
In a letter to company employees Monday and shared with The Associated Press, Macmillan CEO John Sargent wrote “no American court” would go along with President Trump should he sue to have “Fire and Fury” withdrawn.
Macmillan is the parent organization of Henry Holt and Company, which released the book. A Trump lawyer last week sent a cease and letter to the publisher, demanding it be withheld. Holt responded by moving up the release date from Jan. 9 to last Friday.
On Monday, Sargent said that the company would send a formal response to Trump later in the day.
Wolff’s book portrays the 45th president as a leader who doesn’t understand the weight of his office and whose competence is questioned by aides. It has sparked outrage in Trump’s camp, and the president’s allies attacked the book in a round of television appearances Sunday.
Chief policy adviser Stephen Miller, in a combative appearance Sunday on CNN, described the book as “nothing but a pile of trash through and through.”
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Trump was “completely fit” to lead the country.
“These are from people who just have not accepted the fact that President Trump is the United States president and I’m sorry for them in that,” Pompeo, who gives Trump his regular intelligence briefings, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said she visits the White House once a week, and “no one questions the stability of the president.”
“I’m always amazed at the lengths people will go to, to lie for money and for power. This is like taking it to a whole new low,” she told ABC’s “This Week.”
Miller also criticized Bannon, who is quoted extensively in the book, saying it was “tragic and unfortunate” that Bannon “would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive.”
Bannon is chairman of Breitbart News, and his comments caused a key Bannon backer, Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire GOP donor and Breitbart co-owner, to distance her family from him.
In his statement Sunday, Bannon praised Trump Jr. as “both a patriot and a good man.”
“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,” Bannon said in the statement, which was first obtained by the news site Axios.
Miller’s interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” quickly grew heated, with Miller criticizing CNN’s coverage and moderator Jake Tapper accusing Miller of speaking to an audience of one: his boss.
Tapper abruptly ended the interview, saying: “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”
Soon after, Trump tweeted: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”
Trump took the extraordinary step Saturday of using Twitter to defend his fitness for office, insisting he is “like, really smart” and, indeed, a “very stable genius.” He pressed the case again on Sunday, tweeting: “I’ve had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President. Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author.”
On Sunday, two days after the book’s release, WikiLeaks tweeted a link to an electronic image of the text. Posting the text of a book without permission would violate copyright restrictions and potentially damage sales. Yet, hours after WikiLeaks tweeted the link, “Fire and Fury” remained No. 1 on Amazon’s lists of hardcover and ebook bestsellers.
Associated Press writer Hillel Italie contributed to this report from New York.