(CNN) — Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said Sunday he regretted not responding sooner to comments attributed to him that were critical of Donald Trump Jr. in an explosive new book on the White House.
“Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man,” read Bannon’s statement, which CNN obtained Sunday from a source close to Bannon. “He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.”
The statement later adds: “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 (Trump’s) presidency.”
Axios first reported Bannon’s statement.
In the book, “Fire and Fury,” author Michael Wolff quotes Bannon as saying the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials, including Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer purportedly offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton was “treasonous.” The book also attributes statements to him denigrating the President.
CNN has not independently verified all the assertions in Wolff’s book.
Bannon said his comments about the Trump Tower meeting were aimed at 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.”
Following the publication of Bannon’s quotes in the book, which went on sale Friday, Trump has called friends and allies to make clear they must choose between him and his estranged former adviser, a source familiar with the calls told CNN. Axios previously reported the calls.
Trump has also taken to Twitter to attack Bannon, labeling him “Sloppy Steve,” and said in a statement released by White House last Wednesday that Bannon had “lost his mind.”