Steve Bannon in new book: Russia probe's focus is money-laundering

By Danielle Haynes  |  Updated Jan. 3, 2018 at 2:27 PM
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Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said he believes the special counsel investigation on Russia is focusing on money laundering and called a Trump Tower meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer "treasonous."

Bannon's remarks were published in a new book by Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. The book features interviews with President Donald Trump and multiple members of his administration and inner circle.

The Guardian and MSNBC obtained early copies of the book and published the details Wednesday. Trump responded swiftly, saying Bannon has "lost his mind."

In the book, Bannon said the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election would not end quickly.

"You realize where this is going," he said. "This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to [expletive] Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, [Donald Trump Jr.] and Jared Kushner ... It's as plain as a hair on your face."

Bannon pointed to a subpoena by prosecutors or records from Deutsche Bank, which lent millions to the Kushner family's business.

"It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner [expletive]. ... They're going to go right through that," Bannon said. "They're going to roll those two guys up and say 'play me or trade me.'"

And the Breitbart News executive chairman had strong words to describe his thoughts on the June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr., Manafort and Kushner with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who told the younger Trump she had damaging information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

"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.

"Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad [expletive], and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately."

Trump Jr., who worked on the campaign and now runs his father's business with brother Eric Trump, agreed to the meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after receiving an email from a third party who promised the information on Clinton. Trump Jr. replied, "I love it," in response to the promise, but later issued a statement saying she only wanted to talk about Russian adoptions and the Magnitsky Act.

"We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense," Trump Jr. said in July 2017 after The New York Times reported on the emails he exchanged with the third party.

"They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV," Bannon is quoted as saying in the Wolff book.

The president fired back Wednesday afternoon after details of the Bannon interview were released. He distanced his presidency from Bannon, who he said "had very little to do with our history victory."

"When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind," Trump said in a statement.

"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," the statement continued.

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