President Donald Trump excoriated his former right hand man Steve Bannon on Wednesday as an egotistical liar who spent his time at the White House leaking "false information" to journalists.
The serious claims stand in sharp contrast to Trump's previous praise of Bannon and came just hours after excerpts from an upcoming book revealed that Bannon once blasted a Trump campaign meeting attended by Russian operatives as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic."
"Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency," Trump said in a statement. "When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind."
Without giving specifics, Trump went on to accuse his ex-chief strategist of feeding lies to reporters.
"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," Trump said. "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."
But the idea that Bannon had "nothing to do" with Trump's election or political approach contradicts just about everything the president has said about him in the past.
Bannon helmed Trump's campaign for its final three months and was named the White House chief strategist after Trump's inauguration. Bannon, who is the chairman of far-right website Breitbart News, has been credited as one of the key thinkers behind Trump's "America First" agenda.
Many of Trump's senior advisers tried for months to get Bannon out of the White House, accusing the Breitbart executive of peddling racist ideas and policies.
But Trump stood by Bannon and even came out in his defense after he was finally dumped on Aug. 18.
"I want to thank Steve Bannon for his service," Trump tweeted. "He came to the campaign during my run against Crooked Hillary Clinton — it was great! Thanks S."
Long before Bannon's unceremonious White House exit, Trump repeatedly pushed back against accusations that his strategist harbored racist thoughts, and even credited Bannon with his election win.
"Steve and Reince are highly qualified leaders who worked well together on our campaign and led us to a historic victory," Trump said during a post-election press conference, referring to Bannon and ex-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. "Now I will have them both with me in the White House as we work to make America great again."
But those words appeared long forgotten on Wednesday.
"Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn't as easy as I make it look," Trump said in his statement. "Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country."
Trump also claimed Bannon was to blame for the Republican loss in last month's Alabama Senate election — even though Trump himself backed the same contentious candidate.
"Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans," Trump wrote. "Steve doesn't represent my base — he's only in it for himself."
Trump's fighting words came in response to an excerpt of author Michael Wolff's upcoming Washington tell-all, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," in which Bannon is quoted as having harshly criticized Trump's family members.
"Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s--t, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately," Bannon apparently told Wolff, referring to a July 2016 Trump Tower meeting hosted by Donald Trump Jr. and attended by Russian operatives who had promised "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.
Bannon also blamed Trump's son-in-law Jared Kusher and disgraced campaign chairman Paul Manafort for the success of special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
"This is all about money laundering," Bannon said. "Mueller chose (senior prosecutor Andrew) Weissman first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f----ing Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kusher. ... It's as plain as a hair on your face."
Echoing Trump's comments, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders characterized Bannon's comments as outright lies.
"This book is filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House," Sanders told reporters. "Participating in a book that can only be described as trashy tabloid fiction exposes their sad desperate attempts at relevancy."