The brigade of insurgent GOP candidates backed by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon showed signs of disunity Wednesday after controversial remarks Bannon made for a book about links between the Russian government and some members of President Donald Trump’s campaign team.
“I strongly denounce the comments by Steve Bannon as quoted by Michael Wolff,” said Michael Grimm.
The disgraced former New York representative is running to reclaim his 11th District seat with Bannon’s backing, after resigning from the House in 2015 over a nearly $1 million tax evasion scandal.
“They are baseless attacks against the President’s family, beyond disturbing, and I fully support our Commander in Chief,” Grimm said in a statement.
In an interview for a forthcoming book by Michael Wolff, Bannon slammed Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law and a close campaign and White House adviser) and Paul Manafort (his campaign chairman at the time of the meeting who has been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller) for what he termed a “treasonous” meeting with Russian government surrogates in the summer of 2016.
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“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. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon said, according to the Guardian’s report on the book. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
The president fired back at his former chief strategist Wednesday by alleging Bannon has “lost his mind” after being ousted from the White House.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t 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,” Trump said in a statement.
The president ripped his former aide for losing “a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than 30 years by Republicans” by backing insurgent GOP candidate Roy Moore in the Republican primary against former Sen. Luther Strange. Trump threw his weight behind Moore in the general election.
Arizona Senate hopeful and #MAGA enthusiast Kelli Ward also appeared to be using a stick to touch Bannon Wednesday, minimizing the importance of his backing.
“Steve Bannon is only one of many high-profile endorsements Dr. Ward has received,” her press secretary, Zachery Henry, said in a statement. “Her focus remains on winning this race, which she is in a great position to do, and then helping President Trump advance an America First agenda.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, who is gunning for Democratic Rep. Joe Manchin, echoed Ward and Grimm in siding with the president.
Morrisey “has been endorsed by many conservatives throughout West Virginia and America,” a spokeswoman said.
The attorney general “does not support these attacks on President Trump and his family, and was proud to stand with President Trump in 2016 when they were both overwhelmingly elected in West Virginia and when he cast his vote for Trump in the Electoral College,” the spokeswoman said.
A handful of other Bannon-backed Senate candidates, including Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, have kept quiet over the spat.
A spokesman for Montana Senate candidate Matt Rosendale declined to directly address Bannon’s statements when asked to comment on them.
“Every endorsement Matt racks up speaks to his strength as a candidate, not the other way around,” the spokesman, Kyle Schmauch, said. “We have more conservative groups waiting in the wings that we’ll roll out soon. It will take every coalition of the Republican Party uniting together to beat [Democratic Sen. Jon Tester].”
Bannon responded quickly to the wave of criticism on his radio show Wednesday night. He praised the president but did not recant his statements about Trump’s subordinates’ alleged impropriety during the 2016 campaign.
“The President of the United States is a great man,” Bannon said. “You know I support him day in and day out, whether going through the country giving the Trump miracle speech or on the show or on the website.”