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Trump breaks with Bannon, says former aide 'lost his mind'

From Reuters - January 3, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump on Wednesday blasted former White House adviser Steve Bannon as having lost his mind in the fallout over damaging comments Bannon made about Trumps son, Donald Trump Jr., in excerpts of a new book.

Trump, who had continued to speak privately with Bannon in the months after firing him as the White House chief strategist last August, essentially cut ties with Bannon at least for now in a blistering statement issued after Bannons comments about Don Jr. came to light.

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 in a statement.

Trump had relied heavily on Bannon, chairman of right-wing news website Breitbart News, for advice in the months leading up to the November 2016 election that Trump unexpectedly won. Bannon helped Trump shape a populist, anti-establishment message and has been the presidents link to his conservative base of support.

In excerpts of the forthcoming book, Bannon called a June 2016 meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower in New York arranged by the presidents son and attended by top Trump campaign officials treasonous and unpatriotic.

While in the past Trump has praised Bannon for his friendship, in his statement on Wednesday he said Bannon had little to do with his presidential victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, calling him a staffer who worked for me after he had already won the Republican nomination.

Trump said Bannon was to blame for the loss of a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in December when Republican Roy Moore, whose campaign was derailed by accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, lost to Democrat Doug Jones. During the campaign, Trump joined Bannon in backing Moore.

Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isnt 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 thirty years by Republicans, Trump said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had despaired over Trumps backing of Moore at the urging of Bannon, was clearly pleased that Trump was now willing to rid himself of the former aide. McConnells campaign organization tweeted an image of the normally taciturn McConnell with a beaming smile.

Trump, an expert at self-promotion, said Bannon was trying to promote himself by leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was.

Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books, said Trump, who famously values loyalty in associates and employees.

With midterm elections looming in November that could cost Republicans control of Congress, Trump praised Republican lawmakers and candidates, words likely to be welcomed by McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.

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