Trump and allies hit back at White House exposé

US president says ‘Fire and Fury’ is a ‘fake book’ amid speculation over his mental health

US President Donald Trump on Saturday rejected an author's accusations that he is mentally unfit for office and said his track record showed he is a "stable genius." Video: The White House

 

US president Donald Trump and his aides have hit back at speculation about the president’s mental health as controversy over an explosive book on his presidency continued over the weekend.

Returning to Washington on Sunday from Camp David, where he had been hosting Republican leaders, Trump tweeted that he had “had to put up with the Fake News from the first day I announced that I would be running for President.

“Now I have to put up with a Fake Book, written by a totally discredited author.”

He said that Ronald Reagan had had the same problem and “handled it well”, adding: “So will I!”

His comments came as Steve Bannon, the former White House aide who gives damaging quotes in the book, expressed regret at the comments attributed to him.

In a statement issued to news website Axios on Sunday, Mr Bannon said that Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump jnr was a “patriot and a good man”, and that he believed Trump “was the only candidate that could have taken on and defeated the Clinton apparatus” in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr Bannon is depicted in the book as questioning Trump’s competence and as describing a June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump jnr, Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as “treasonous”.

The book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, written by Michael Wolff, has prompted widespread public discussion about the president’s fitness for office. Among the allegations made by Mr Wolff about Trump is that those around him have noticed a mental decline, noting in particular the president’s tendency to repeat expressions in swift succession.

The book’s publication on Friday came days after reports emerged that members of Congress – mostly Democrats – were briefed by Yale psychologist Dr Bandy X Lee on Trump’s mental health last month.

Trump took the unusual move of addressing his own mental health in a series of tweets on Saturday, describing himself as a “genius . . . and a very stable genius at that”.

Accusing Democrats and the media of “taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook” by focusing on his mental stability and intelligence, he said that throughout his life his two greatest assets had been “mental stability and being, like, really smart”.

“I went from VERY successful businessman, to top TV Star to President of the United States (on my first try),” he tweeted. “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that!”

He continued the theme in a press conference on Saturday, when he was asked by reporters about the book. “I went to the best colleges . . . I was a very excellent student, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top businesspeople, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success as you probably have heard, ran for president one time and won,” he said.

He noted that “Sloppy Steve” – a reference to Mr Bannon – was “now looking for a job”.

He also claimed that the book was a “work of fiction”.

Defending Trump

Trump’s aides came out in defence of the president in a series of TV interviews on Sunday.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, said Trump had “not become president by accident” and that she was “always amazed at the lengths people will go to to lie for money and for power”.

She also said that Trump’s tweet taunting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over the size of his “nuclear button” was meant to “keep Kim on his toes”.

Meanwhile, the head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, said that the president was an “avid consumer” of the CIA’s daily intelligence briefing. “We talk about some of the most serious matters facing America and the world, complex issues; the president is engaged, he understands the complexity, he asks really difficult questions of our team at CIA,” he said.

In a tetchy interview on CNN, senior White House aide Stephen Miller told interviewer Jake Tapper that Steve Bannon was an “angry, vindictive person” whose “grotesque comments are so out of touch with reality”.

Trump tweeted shortly after the interview: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”