Steve Bannon Says He Regrets Comments About Trump Jr. In New Book

(CBSNews)

NEW YORK (CBSNews) — Former White House strategist Steve Bannon says he regrets explosive commentshe made about Donald Trump Jr. and a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and several Russian nationals, walking back his assertion in a new book that the meeting was “treasonous.”

“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man,” Bannon said in a statement to Axios’ Mike Allen, who discussed the comments on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” Sunday (Jan. 7). “He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.”

In Michael Wolff’s new book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Bannon blasted Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort for taking the meeting.

“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 in the book. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

Bannon’s comments led to a falling out with President Trump, who said Bannon “lost his mind” after leaving the White House last year. Following the publication of his comments, Bannon lost the support of Rebekah Mercer, his main financial backer, as well as many prominent Republicans.

In his statement Sunday, Bannon said his comments were not intended as a slight against the president’s son.

“My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends,” he said. “To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”

Bannon says his support for the president is “unwavering” and he remains “ready and willing to stand in the breech for this presidency and the administration’s effort to make America great again.”

Here’s Bannon’s full statement:

Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.

My support is also unwavering for the president and his agenda — as I have shown daily in my national radio broadcasts, on the pages of Breitbart News and in speeches and appearances from Tokyo and Hong Kong to Arizona and Alabama. President Trump was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus. I have always been — and remain — ready and willing to stand in the breech for this presidency and the administration’s effort to make America great again.

My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.

My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.

Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.

I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.