Stephen K. Bannon, the embattled former confidant and chief strategist to President Donald Trump, issued a lengthy list of apologies Sunday for his comments as quoted by controversial book author Michael Wolff.
Besides expressing “regret” to the chief executive, Bannon singled out Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. — whom the former White House strategist is quoted by Wolff as accusing of having a “treasonous” meeting during the 2016 campaign with a Russian lawyer with deep ties to President Vladimir Putin.
“Donald Trump Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around,” Bannon said in an exclusive statement to the Axios website.
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Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met during the 2016 president campaign with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, supposedly to discuss damaging materials she possessed concerning former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee who had been heavily favored to win the election.
As it turned out, what Veselnitskaya really wanted to do was lobby the Trump team for repeal of a law passed under President Barack Obama that imposed sanctions against numerous Russian business tycoons with close ties to Putin.
“My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama,” Bannon said in his statement to Axios.
“My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years, when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them,” Bannon continued.
“My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
He added, “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’s statement was not entirely about apologies, however. He strongly defended his oft-repeated criticism of allegations from the Left and others that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian interests in order to defeat Clinton.
“There was no collusion, and the investigation is a witch hunt.”
“Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my ’60 Minutes’ interview. There was no collusion, and the investigation is a witch hunt,” Bannon said regarding the probe of special counsel Robert Mueller. He was referring to an interview he gave the CBS news program prior to the leaked excerpts from the Wolff book.