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'Fire And Fury' Author Michael Wolff Discusses Bannon's Role In White House


The fallout from Michael Wolff's book, "Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House," continued over the weekend. President Trump on Saturday called the book boring, untruthful and described himself as a very stable genius after the book raised questions about his mental fitness.

Many of the quotes in the book were attributed to his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, quotes like saying the president's son's meeting with Russians who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton was treasonous. Then on Sunday, Bannon issued a written mea culpa to the news site Axios. He said he regretted the delay in responding to the book and pledged his unwavering support for President Trump and his agenda.

On Friday, I talked to the book's author, Michael Wolff, about "Fire And Fury." And I asked him why Steve Bannon would have said those things about Trump while he still worked in the White House.

MICHAEL WOLFF: I think it was of real concern to Steve. You know, he lived this more intensely than anyone else. Donald Trump - and this is - if you say this around the president, the top of his head blows off. But this is absolutely true, that Steve Bannon is responsible for Donald Trump's election. And Steve has a singular vision about where he thinks the country should be and what has to happen to make America great again. And that's what he went into this White House to do.

You know, and he thought Donald Trump was his vessel to do this. But his vessel turned out be, as Bannon has described him, but as everyone - singularly, everyone else in the White House has also described him - his vessel turned out to be a child or to be like a child, a man so desperate for immediate gratification that really nothing could get done.

MCEVERS: Do you think that Steve Bannon ever thought he was off the record when he was talking to you?

WOLFF: Steve Bannon is the ultimate strategist. I have never spoken to anyone - and it's fascinating to talk to him at this level - who sees many, many steps ahead. So I have no fear that Steve Bannon was not aware of what he was doing.

MCEVERS: Yeah. You know, but at the end of the book when you finish your reporting, you know, Steve Bannon - it's just before the loss of Roy Moore, a candidate who Steve Bannon backed in Alabama. So he looks ascendant. You know, he's backing this candidate in Alabama. Things are looking like that's going to work out. Of course, Roy Moore loses. And this week has been a really tough week for Steve Bannon (laughter). My question to you is, does he have a few acts left in him?

WOLFF: I think he has many acts left in him. I would put my money on Steve Bannon rather than Donald Trump at this point.

MCEVERS: That's the impression I get from the book. But again, it ended at a certain time. But I mean, do you think really president 2020, Steve Bannon - he would run?

WOLFF: No - well, would he run? I - you know, I think - I mean, one of the things you have to deal with in terms of where we are is that the Republican Party is cracking up. So where Steve Bannon comes out in that crackup, I don't know. I mean, Steve Bannon is incredibly talented, and he understands this base and this party. It's a minority base. It may grow smaller rather than larger, but it's a passionate and powerful base.

MCEVERS: He does come across as very savvy, obviously, and smart in your book. What are his mistakes, though? What are some of the things you see, some of his missteps?

WOLFF: Well, I - you know, I mean...

MCEVERS: Some would say talking to you was a big mistake (laughter).

WOLFF: Perhaps or perhaps not. He's...


WOLFF: ...Maybe seeing around corners here. I think that the mistake that people would pin on him now is that he fell out with Donald Trump.


WOLFF: But I think Steve Bannon has a vision. He's 64 years old. He knows his time is - you know, he knows he's not a 35-year-old. He's got to do things now. He has to move in audacious ways. And I think that that can be - you know, often it is not strategic to be audacious. But when you feel that your shot is now, you've got to take it.

MCEVERS: Michael, well, thank you so much for your time today.

WOLFF: Thank you.

MCEVERS: Michael Wolff is the author of "Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House."

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE WEDNESDAY SONG, "MONACO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.