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Bannon: Treason comment in new book not about Trump Jr.

Stephen Miller, seen here on Aug. 2, 2017,

Stephen Miller, seen here on Aug. 2, 2017, told CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday that comments in a new book from former Trump aid Steve Bannon are "grotesque." Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Jim Watson

Steve Bannon, the former top aide with whom President Donald Trump cut ties last week, sought Sunday to explain and express “regret” for what he said were comments misconstrued in a new book as attacks on Trump’s son.

Bannon addressed his portrayal in “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff as White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller on CNN called Bannon’s remarks in the book “grotesque” and “obviously so vindictive.”

Bannon appeared to focus his Sunday statement on what he said in the book about the Trump Tower meeting on June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr., Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

“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,” Bannon said, addressing the issue for the first time since Newsday and other outlets on Wednesday obtained advance copies of “Fire and Fury.”

His statement was first published by online news outlet Axios.

In the book, Bannon tells Wolff that the decision by “the three senior campaign guys” to meet with the Russians without lawyers was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic.”

Donald Trump responded last week to the criticism by minimizing Bannon’s contributions to his campaign and administration, saying Bannon had “lost his mind” and tweeting repeatedly about “Sloppy Steve.”

Bannon, ousted in August as White House chief strategist, has found himself increasingly isolated, including by the Mercer family of Long Island, influential donors with whom he teamed up to boost Trump to the presidency.

Bannon said Sunday that his comments about the Russians were informed by his time in the Navy hunting Soviet submarines and at the Pentagon “when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire.’ ”

The “treasonous” statement was aimed not at Trump Jr. but “Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate,” he said.

Manafort was indicted in October on charges including conspiracy against the United States and money laundering.

Miller, a former Bannon ally, on CNN’s “State of the Union” defended the president as a genius and rejected “Fire and Fury” as a work of fiction.

“It reads like an angry, vindictive person spouting off to a highly discreditable author,” Miller said.

Tapper eventually cut off the interview after a heated exchange in which the senior Trump aide called the anchor “condescending” and CNN “fake news.”

“I get it. . . . There is one viewer that you care about right now,” Tapper snapped at Miller toward the end.

Trump tweeted his approval.

“Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!” he posted.

Trump also tweeted: “Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author. Ronald Reagan had the same problem and handled it well. So will I!”

Wolff told NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that he did not violate off-the-record agreements with the Trump aides. He added that he had conversations with Trump that the president may not have seen as formal interviews.

The White House on Sunday did not respond to Bannon’s statement explaining his portrayal in the book.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is aligned with Bannon on pro-Israel policies and had Bannon’s help last month at a campaign fundraiser, called his ally’s statement a “positive step forward” in terms of clarity.

Zeldin said he wanted to see how Trump and his family will respond. The congressman added regarding Bannon’s statement “and especially with so much of the book’s veracity in question, it is helpful to have the added background.”

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