Trump breaks with Bannon in dramatic fashion

Trump breaks with Bannon in dramatic fashion

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' 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 RomneyPoll: House GOP candidate leads in California swing district Super PACs spend big in high-stakes midterms Kavanaugh and the 'boys will be boys' sentiment is a poor excuse for bad behavior MORE, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGOP candidate scores upset win in Texas state Senate runoff McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal Cornyn takes on O'Rourke over AR-15s MORE (R-Texas) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Graham knocks South Korea over summit with North 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 BannonOur policies on immigration should be forward-thinking Ann Coulter believes Kushner wrote anonymous op-ed bashing Trump Bannon seeks to boost Republican turnout in midterms with new film MORE for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton: FBI investigation into Kavanaugh could be done quickly Hillary Clinton urges Americans to 'check and reject' Trump's 'authoritarian tendencies' by voting in midterms EXCLUSIVE: Trump says exposing ‘corrupt’ FBI probe could be ‘crowning achievement’ of presidency 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 JenkinsMore than 50 Dem House challengers outraise GOP incumbents Key Republican says House taking targeted approach to combating opioid epidemic Dem candidate denies W.Va. is racist for rejecting Obama 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 — Kavanaugh controversy consumes Washington | Kavanaugh slated to testify Monday | Allegations shake up midterms Trump Jr. hits back at Anderson Cooper: He 'lied about me' CNN's Anderson Cooper unloads on Trump Jr. for spreading 'idiotic' conspiracy theories about him 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 Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh confirmation in sudden turmoil Manafort’s plea deal — the clear winners and losers Five takeaways from Manafort’s plea deal MORE and former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortEric Holder: Trump releasing docs on Russia probe is 'dangerous abuse of power' Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Legal expert says Manafort deal could help Trump in short term 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 McConnellSanders hits Feinstein over Kavanaugh allegations: Now it’s clear why she did nothing for months On The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' McConnell tamps down any talk of Kavanaugh withdrawal 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 KingOn The Money: Broad coalition unites against Trump tariffs | Senate confirms new IRS chief | Median household income rose for third straight year in 2017 | Jamie Dimon's brief battle with Trump Blue-state Republicans say they will vote against 'tax cuts 2.0' if it extends SALT cap Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon MORE (R-N.Y.). “Time for Bannon to disappear or find work in a circus.”