Trump calls Steve Bannon indictment ‘very sad, surprising’
President Trump on Thursday said the indictment of his former White House strategist Steve Bannon was “very sad.”
Bannon was arrested Thursday for allegedly defrauding donors to the private $25 million fundraising drive to build part of the US-Mexico border wall. Bannon personally pocketed $1 million in contributions, prosecutors allege.
“I think it’s a very sad thing for Mr. Bannon. I think it’s surprising,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “I didn’t like that project. I thought that was a project that was being done for showboating reasons. I don’t know that he was in charge, I didn’t know any of the other people either, but it’s — it’s sad, it’s very sad.”
Trump said Bannon’s partnership with co-defendant Brian Kolfage on the “We Build the Wall” effort “was something I very much thought was inappropriate to be doing.”
Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, was the final chairman of the 2016 Trump campaign and followed Trump into the White House. The president fired Bannon in August 2017 after seven months on the job, in the wake of a widely criticized response to racial clashes in Charlottesville, Va.
In January 2018, Trump and Bannon had a bitter falling out after Bannon was reported saying that Donald Trump Jr. was “treasonous” for meeting with Russians during the campaign and calling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” In a blistering statement at the time, President Trump said Bannon had “very little to do with our historic victory” and was “only in it for himself.”
On Thursday, Trump said, “I haven’t dealt with him at all over years now, literally years.”
Trump has at times softened his public remarks on Bannon, and some of the strategist’s friends pushed a narrative that he was returning to Trump’s good graces. But it’s believed he and Trump have not spoken since their break in January 2018.
Bannon was a longtime strategic adversary of Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
In a statement, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that “President Trump has no involvement in this project and felt it was only being done in order to showboat, and perhaps raise funds.”
McEnany highlighted Trump’s July remark after a section of privately built wall was at risk of falling over.
“I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads,” Trump said last month. “It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work. Should have been built like rest of Wall, 500 plus miles.”
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