As the GOP civil war widens, Trump offers a weak defense of his campaign and its actions during 2016.
The angry feud that erupted on Tuesday between Donald Trump's and his former chief strategist Steve Bannon was marked by the stunning, albeit wandering, denunciation the president released claiming Bannon had "lost his mind."
Trump forcefully condemned his former campaign chief after it was reported Bannon is quoted in a new book that details the chaos and ineptitude of the Trump White House.
Specifically, Bannon unloads on Trump's son and son-in-law for attending a controversial meeting held at Trump Tower in 2016 with Russian operatives who explicitly offered to deliver incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
"The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers, says Bannon in Michael Wolff's new book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House."
"Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think its all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.
In his broadside response Tuesday afternoon, Trump announced "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. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party."
The statement goes on at length, but what's notably absent is a detailed denial of Bannon's specific claim that the Trump team's campaign meeting with Russian operatives in 2016 was "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."
Appearing on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) stressed that exact point:
BLITZER: Ted Lieu is still with us, from California. Let me get your reaction. A pretty stark, bold statement from the president of the United States. Not from a Democrat. Not from a member of your party, but from the president of the United States clearly attacking Steve Bannon who now runs Breitbart once again, as someone who has, quote, lost his mind.
LIEU: Wolf, during Watergate the [Nixon] administration would issue statements like this, which I would call a non-denial denial. Basically, the president is not denying what Steve Bannon said. He's attacking the messenger, Steve Bannon. The reason he can't deny what Steve Bannon said is because we have emails about this meeting. And now we also know why the president and his son Trump Jr. tried so hard to cover up what happened at this meeting. If you remember, earlier last year they issued two press statements about this meeting that were false and misleading. They said the meeting was just about Russian adoptions and nothing about campaigns. That was totally wrong.
It's looking more and more like that Trump Tower meeting may play a central role in special counsel Robert Mueller's collusion investigation. It's telling that Trump now assiduously avoids addressing it.