Late Thursday night, President Donald Trump lashed out at two key figures related to a tell-all book about his first year in the White House — its author, Michael Wolff, and Steve Bannon, his former adviser, who was interviewed for the manuscript. In a tweet, Trump claimed he gave Wolff no access to the White House, and warned that something negative might happen to him and Bannon in the future as a result of Bannon's cooperation with the book's reporting. He also introduced a nickname for Bannon, calling him "Sloppy Steve," in a tactic Trump generally reserved for his opponents. The book, entitled Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is being released on Friday, Jan. 5.
"I authorized Zero access to the White House (actually turned him down many times) for author of phony book!" Trump tweeted. "I never spoke to him for book. Full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist." He then urged his followers to "look at this guy's past," seemingly referring to Wolff, and instructed folks to "watch what happens to him and Sloppy Steve!"
In August, Bannon was fired from his post as Trump's chief strategist. Since then, the two's public relationship has remained civil, though has seemed tense at times. Trump's dubbing of Bannon indicates the tides have changed.
Trump's tweet was not the first time that the administration alleged the book was based on lies. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denounced the book as "filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House." According to Wolff, however, Fire and Fury is based on 200 interviews with people around Trump that were conducted over a period of 18 months. He has also claimed that he recorded dozens of hours of the interviews he conducted, including with Bannon.
Prior to the tweet, Trump's lawyers also sent Bannon a cease and desist letter demanding that he stop speaking with Wolff about Fire and Fury. Another letter was reportedly sent to Wolff and his publisher, that one demanding that the book not be released. However, instead of halting the book's publishing, the book's release date was moved up by five days — from Jan. 9 to Jan. 5.
While Trump's nickname for Bannon indicates that their relationship has gone sour, it was also not the first time this week that the president snubbed him for his participation in Wolff's interviews. On Wednesday, when details from the book began to be published, Trump responded swiftly, in a statement, denouncing not only the details from the book but also downplaying Bannon's role in both the Trump campaign and the administration:
Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. ... 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.
Bannon, for his part, has remained largely quiet about the unfolding controversy. When asked about the drama on a Breitbart radio show, Bannon said, "The president of the United States is a great man. You know, I support him day in and day out."
What will come of the cease and desist letters is yet undetermined.