This article titled “Trump hits back at Steve Bannon: ‘When he was fired, he lost his mind'” was written by Lauren Gambino, David Smith and Ben Jacobs in Washington, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 3rd January 2018 21.24 UTC
Donald Trump lashed out at his former chief strategist Steve Bannon on Wednesday, accusing him of having “lost his mind” after the one-time aide made explosive accusations against the president and his family in a new book.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House.
“When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating 17 candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.”
Critics pointed, however, to a tweet issued on 17 August 2017, in which Trump wrote: “I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service. He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton – it was great! Thanks S.”
Bannon was chief executive officer of the Trump campaign in its final three months and then White House chief strategist for seven months before returning to the rightwing Breitbart News.
According to Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Bannon told author Michael Wolff the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. He also reportedly made a range of claims about the likely targets and results of the investigation into Russian election meddling by the special counsel Robert Mueller.
In the book, which was obtained by the Guardian ahead of publication from a bookseller in New England, Wolff paints a picture of a White House in chaos, locked in internecine warfare with even some of Trump’s closest allies expressing contempt for him.
In his statement, which was issued after New York magazine published its own extensive excerpt of the Wolff book, Trump said: “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well.
“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.”
Wolff, a former Guardian columnist, told the Guardian in November that he had no agenda in writing the book but wanted to “find out what the insiders were really thinking and feeling”. He enjoyed extraordinary access to Trump and senior officials and advisers, he said, sometimes at critical moments.
On Wednesday, one subject of conversations reported in Wolff’s book, billionaire Trump ally Tom Barrack, told the New York Times he had not made a reported abusive remark about the president.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a written statement that the book was “filled with false and misleading accounts” and was “trashy tabloid fiction”.
At her regular briefing later, she said Trump was “furious” at and “disgusted” by Bannon’s remarks. “Going after the president’s son in an absolutely outrageous way is probably not the best way to curry favour with anybody.”
She described the claim of treason against Trump Jr as “a ridiculous accusation” and pointed to an interview on CBS 60 Minutes in which Bannon had referred to allegations of collusion with Russia as a “farce”. She told reporters: “If anyone’s been inconsistent, it’s been him. It certainly hasn’t been the president or this administration.”
She claimed that Trump and Bannon last spoke in early December. Asked if the former chief strategist was off the list for social invitations to the White House, she replied dryly: “Probably so.”
Sanders claimed that Wolff had “never actually sat down with the president” while researching the book but just had “one brief conversation” of about five to seven minutes. She was also aware of just over a dozen interactions between Wolff and White House officials, “95%” of which were at Bannon’s request. “I know the book has a lot of things that are completely untrue,” she claimed.
Stephanie Grisham, communications director for the first lady, rejected claims in the book that Melania Trump cried when her husband won the presidency.
Donald Trump Jr also jumped into the fray, blasting Bannon in a series of tweets that blamed him for the election of the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in more than a generation.
“Thanks Steve. Keep up the great work,” Trump Jr said, replying to a reporter’s tweet about the swearing-in ceremony of Doug Jones.
Bannon declared a “season of war” on the Republican establishment and has threatened to run disruptive primary challengers against incumbent senators. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the Alabama special election, in which the controversial Republican Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, lost to Jones, demonstrates that Bannon’s anti-establishment candidates are unelectable.
After Trump released his statement on Bannon, McConnell’s re-election campaign account tweeted a gif of McConnell grinning.
Trump Jr added later: “Steve had the honor of working in the White House & serving the country. Unfortunately, he squandered that privilege & turned that opportunity into a nightmare of backstabbing, harassing, leaking, lying & undermining the President. Steve is not a strategist, he is an opportunist.”
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Political Newcomer Lori Lightfoot Becomes Chicago’s First Black Female, Openly Gay Mayor
CHICAGO (AP) — Political newcomer Lori Lightfoot has been elected Chicago mayor, becoming the first black female — and openly gay — leader of the city.
Lightfoot on Tuesday defeated Toni Preckwinkle, a former school teacher who served in the City Council for 19 years before becoming Cook County Board president in 2011.
The 56-year-old Lightfoot is a former federal prosecutor who campaigned on ridding Chicago’s government of corruption. She also said she wanted to help low-income and working-class people she believes have been “left behind and ignored” by Chicago’s political ruling class.
Lightfoot and Preckwinkle were the top two vote-getters in the February general election that saw 14 vie to succeed Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He decided against running for a third term.
Lightfoot will be sworn in May 20.
GOP Candidate in Disputed U.S. House Race Not Running Again
Raleigh, N.C. (AP) — The Republican candidate whose narrow lead in a North Carolina congressional race was thrown out because of suspicions of ballot fraud announced Tuesday he will not run in the newly ordered do-over election, saying he needs surgery late next month.
The withdrawal of Mark Harris, a candidate hobbled by links to alleged ballot fraud, could help Republicans in their effort to keep the competitive seat in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
Harris announced his decision in a statement that focused on his health problems. He did not mention the alleged ballot fraud scandal.
Harris had led Democrat Dan McCready by just 905 votes after November’s election, but the outcome was never certified. State election officials grew concerned about reports that an operative working for Harris was illegally tampering with absentee ballots.
Harris last week stopped a special state elections board hearing by declaring he couldn’t continue to testify. He cited health problems caused by a blood infection that required hospitalization and led to two strokes. He also said he agreed that a new election should be called, despite his previous calls to be declared the winner.
Shortly after Harris spoke last week, the elections board ordered a new contest . A date for the new election has not been announced.
On Tuesday, Harris encouraged his supporters to rally around Stony Rushing, a commissioner in Union County. The local official from the Charlotte suburbs would “stand firm on so many of the issues that concern us, including the issue of life, our national security, and religious freedom,” Harris said.
Rushing, a firing range owner and licensed gun seller, has been a county commissioner off and on for more than eight years, first taking office in 2002. He didn’t return a phone call to his shooting range seeking comment on Tuesday.
Only one other GOP candidate — former state Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County — has publicly expressed interest in running for the seat. In a phone interview, Tucker said he’s “95 percent sure” that he plans to run for the seat. He said he had no idea how Harris’ near-endorsement of Rushing would affect the campaign.
Former U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, whom Harris defeated in last May’s primary, told The Associated Press in an interview that it was “good for the country and the party” that Harris wasn’t running. When asked why, he said simply: “I think it’s just obvious.”
Pittenger again closed the door on seeking his old job, saying he’s involved in a series of conferences on counter-terrorism and security issues.
Former Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday he wouldn’t seek the seat. He was previously mayor of Charlotte, a part of which is in the congressional district.
McCready has been assembling a new campaign staff and raising money to run again in the district that stretches from Charlotte through several counties to the east along the South Carolina border. His campaign finance report showed McCready raised $487,000 during the final five weeks of 2018. His campaign sent out a campaign fundraising plea late Thursday, citing the state elections board’s decision.
McCready formally announced his intention to run Friday before several dozen supporters at a brewery in Waxhaw, near Charlotte.
“Folks, there’s a lot of people that have had their confidence shaken in recent weeks because of the fraud conducted by Mark Harris’s campaign,” McCready said. “There’s a lot of people right now in North Carolina that are disillusioned in our electoral process.”
He told the crowd that he and his team were going to “knock on every door” in the district to earn votes and to reassure constituents that he’s the type of politician who will do the right thing.
“We’re going to talk to people about doing what’s right instead of what’s wrong,” he said.
Harris struggled during testimony last week over why he prepared for his primary election last year by seeking out and signing up Bladen County political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless, a convicted felon who had been accused of ballot fraud in the 2016 elections. The state elections board turned over evidence of his actions in 2017 to federal prosecutors, who took no action.
According to testimony and other findings detailed at the hearing, Dowless conducted an illegal “ballot harvesting” operation: He and his assistants gathered up absentee ballots from voters by offering to put them in the mail.
Dowless’ workers in rural Bladen County testified that they were directed to collect blank or incomplete ballots, forge signatures on them and even fill in votes for local candidates.
It is generally against the law in North Carolina for anyone other than the voter or a family member to handle someone’s completed ballot.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case . Dowless declined to testify last week after the elections board refused to grant him immunity from prosecution based on what he might say.
North Carolina Election Board Unanimously Agrees To New House Election
Feb 21 (Reuters) – North Carolina’s elections board on Thursday unanimously ordered a new election for a U.S. House seat after officials said corruption surrounding absentee ballots tainted the results of last November’s vote.
The bipartisan board’s 5-0 decision came after Republican candidate Mark Harris requested a new vote, telling the panel that evidence of possible ballot fraud had undermined confidence in the election.
In the televised hearing, board members said “corruption” and the “absolute mess with the absentee ballots” had cast doubt on the fairness of the contest and voters deserved a fresh election.
Harris’ request for a new vote came as a surprise. For months, he had said he should be declared the victor in the 9th Congressional District after he led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes out of 282,717 ballots cast on Nov. 6. Elections officials, however, had refused to certify him as the winner due to allegations of irregularities in the vote.
“Through the testimony I’ve listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said at a hearing in Raleigh. “It’s become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th district seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”
Harris’ statement came on the fourth day of a hearing on whether his campaign benefited from what state investigators called illegal election manipulation by political consultant Leslie McCrae Dowless.
Earlier on Thursday, Harris said he had known Dowless was going door to door on the candidate’s behalf to help voters obtain absentee ballots, a process that is legal. Harris said Dowless assured him he would not collect the ballots from the voters, which would violate state law.
But residents of at least two counties in the district said Dowless and his paid workers collected incomplete absentee ballots and, in some instances, falsely signed as witnesses and filled in votes for contests left blank, according to testimony at the hearing.
Kim Strach, executive director of the state’s election board, earlier this week called the operation a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme.”
According to text messages Harris’ attorneys turned over to the board on Thursday, Harris sought a meeting with Dowless when he learned that Dowless had led a successful absentee ballot program for Republican candidate Todd Johnson during a 2016 congressional primary election.
In those messages to a Bladen County judge, Harris asked about “the guy whose absentee ballot project for Johnson could have put me in the US House this term, had I known, and he had been helping us.”
Harris campaign officials have said they did not pay Dowless to do anything illegal, and Dowless has maintained his innocence. (Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Dan Grebler and James Dalgleish)
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