Trump breaks with Bannon in dramatic fashion

Trump breaks with Bannon in dramatic fashion

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' MORE split from Stephen Bannon in dramatic fashion on Wednesday after his once close political ally offered explosive criticism of the president and his family in a new book.

In a 267-word statement, an infuriated Trump accused his former chief strategist and top campaign aide of having “lost his mind” and of being “only in it for himself.”

“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,” Trump said.

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The break could prove perilous for Bannon, who is trying to wage a war against the Republican establishment in an effort to elect conservatives he believes will be more loyal to Trump’s agenda.

While Trump has sometimes reconciled with foes, including Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney jokes about his multiple houses while arguing against tying lawmaker pay to budget Romney jokes about his multiple houses while arguing against tying lawmaker pay to budget Republicans more interested in a primary challenge to Trump than Democrats were for Obama in 2012 MORE, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP frets about Trump's poll numbers GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers GOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamSecond ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators Second ex-Senate staffer charged in aiding doxxing of GOP senators Meghan McCain clashes with Joy Behar as the 'sacrificial Republican' on 'The View' MORE (R-S.C.), it was difficult to imagine that the president and Bannon could see eye-to-eye again after Trump’s blistering words, which the White House and its allies piled onto in an effort to bury the Breitbart News leader.

Trump’s tone on Wednesday stood in stark contrast to his reaction after Bannon’s departure from the White House last August, underscoring the magnitude of the break between the two men. 

“I want to thank Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin Bannon Ocasio-Cortez: 'I want to know about the racism' involved with census citizenship question CNN's Jim Acosta: Trump is 'crazy like a fox' BBC News anchor confronts Michael Wolff for using Bannon as a source for his book MORE for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats bristle as Hicks appears for daylong Capitol Hill testimony Democrats bristle as Hicks appears for daylong Capitol Hill testimony Trump: 'So sad' Democrats are putting Hope Hicks 'through hell' MORE — it was great! Thanks S,” he tweeted at the time.

Trump and Bannon last spoke in the "first part of December," according to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. They have not spoken since.

Allies of Bannon’s sought to distance themselves as the extent of his break with Trump became clear.

A pro-Trump outside group, Great America Alliance, which until recently had been a vehicle for Bannon’s endorsements of congressional candidates, said in a statement that it would continue to back candidates that support Trump’s agenda “whether or not Bannon shares this priority.”

In West Virginia, Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE, a candidate in the state’s GOP Senate primary, called on rival Patrick Morrissey to renounce Bannon’s endorsement.

The White House also sent the signal that it wasn’t worried about a counterattack from Bannon and Breitbart, with Sanders saying Trump’s base would choose him over his adviser.

“The base and people that supported this president still support Donald Trump and his agenda. Those things haven't changed,” she told reporters.

“Bannon has no contingent,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a Trump backer, told reporters at the White House. “There's a Trump wing of the Republican Party. There's not a Bannon wing.”

Going after Bannon also shifted the focus a bit from the allegations made by the former White House aide and others as reported by a forthcoming book from author Michael Wolff.

Excerpts of the book paint a chaotic picture of Trump’s campaign and first year in the White House.

Bannon is sharply critical of Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race Trump lashes out at Democrats over Hope Hicks testimony MORE for setting up a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer that was attended by Trump’s son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race Kushner meeting with senators to craft asylum deal MORE and former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortFBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway FBI, warned early and often that Manafort file might be fake, used it anyway Justice Department intervenes, keeps Manafort from being sent to Rikers Island: report MORE, describing it as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

He also said that he believed the visitors were taken to meet then-candidate Trump afterward.

Sanders swiftly denied that claim during her Wednesday briefing before turning her fire back to Bannon.

“Going after the president's son in an absolutely outrageous and unprecedented way is probably not the best way to curry favor with anybody,” she said.

Sanders said the president was “furious” and “disgusted” by the “completely false claims against the president, his administration and his family.”

Bannon and his allies were in crisis mode on Wednesday, blindsided by the sudden turn of events.

Some were dispirited by the break, believing the controversy was totally unnecessary, even if they sided with Bannon’s view that Trump Jr. had created an unnecessary political mess for his father.

Bannon has yet to respond to Trump’s statement. Several sources in Bannon’s immediate orbit were resigned to the avalanche of negative stories set to come out about him.

Enemies of Bannon celebrated the complete fracture of the Trump–Bannon relationship.

Bannon had promised to back primary candidates against every sitting Republican senator, with the exception of Cruz.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Senate to vote Thursday to block Trump's Saudi arms deal MORE’s (R-Ky.) allies cheered the news; a Twitter account belonging to the senator’s political operation posted a short video clip of McConnell grinning after Trump’s statement was released.

“Congrats to @POTUS Trump for pulverizing loud mouth self promoter Bannon,” tweeted Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingHillicon Valley: Facebook unveils new cryptocurrency | Waters wants company to halt plans | Democrats look to force votes on election security | Advertisers partner with tech giants on 'digital safety' | House GOP unveils cyber agenda Hillicon Valley: Facebook unveils new cryptocurrency | Waters wants company to halt plans | Democrats look to force votes on election security | Advertisers partner with tech giants on 'digital safety' | House GOP unveils cyber agenda House Homeland Security Republicans to introduce slew of cybersecurity bills MORE (R-N.Y.). “Time for Bannon to disappear or find work in a circus.”