Controversial author of Trump book expresses regret over Bannon's 'difficult situation'

Controversial author Michael Wolff has expressed regret that his book about U.S. President Donald Trump has led to a 'difficult situation' for the president's former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Michael Wolff speaks to CBC's The National co-host Rosemary Barton, The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti

Journalist Michael Wolff, author of Fire and Fury, the controversial book that examines the inner workings of U.S. President Donald Trump's White House, spoke with the CBC. (Jason Burles/CBC)

Author Michael Wolff has expressed some regret that his controversial book about U.S. President Donald Trump had led to a  "difficult situation" for the president's former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

"Steve is a grand strategist. So he may very well  have a plan. I hope he has a plan," said Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, in an interview with CBC News.

On Wednesday, Wolff spoke to CBC's The National co-host Rosemary Barton and The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti

"I feel bad. I feel guilty that Steve appears to be in a difficult situation," he said.

On Tuesday, Bannon was forced to step down as chairman of Breitbart News Network, less than a week after Bannon's explosive criticisms of Trump and his family were published in Wolff's book.

"I think this did not play out as he had hoped," Wolff said.

'Lost his mind'

Following the publication of the book, the president hit out at his former chief strategist on Twitter, referring to him as "Sloppy Steve," an apparent reference to Bannon's often unkempt appearance. And Trump declared that "he lost his mind" when he was pushed out of the White House last August.

Wolff said he believed Bannon was confident that Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, before he was accused of sexual misconduct with minors, would win the Senate special election in Alabama. Moore lost.

Wolff said Bannon thought that win, along with the publication of the book, would have put Bannon in a stronger position and give him the leverage to break with Trump.

"I think that he had come to regard Donald Trump as an idiot," Wolff said.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon was forced to step down as chairman of Breitbart News Network less than a week after his explosive criticisms of Trump and his family were published in Wolff's book. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The book quotes a number of White House sources who view Trump as mentally unfit to be president and "semi-illiterate," and say he may be dyslexic.

'Doesn't read anything'

"He doesn't read anything. I mean, that's the thing, everybody goes around saying he doesn't read anything," Wolff said. "Someone will say, well he reads a headline and then somebody else will say, he only reads a headline if it's about him."

White House aides also described Trump's behaviour as similar to that of a demanding child, Wolff said.

"Everybody among the senior staff has at one time or another referred to him as a child, sometimes as an 11-year-old. Sometimes, he's a six-year-old, sometimes he's a two-year-old. But all to the point that he needs immediate gratification."

  • WATCH |The National co-host Rosemary Barton interviews author Michael Wolff at 9 p.m ET Wednesday on CBC News Network, 10 p.m ET on CBC Television, 10:30 p.m ET in Newfoundland and Labrador

Staff, Wolff said, are concerned about Trump's constant repetitions, that he used to repeat the same three stories, with the same words and facial expressions within 30 minutes. As the months have gone by, the time between stories shrank to 10 and 15 minutes, Wolff said.

Wolff said that the presidency is known to magnify the office holder in extreme ways and this is what's happened with Trump.

"The president's insecurities are magnified, the president's intellectual deficiencies are magnified, the president's own willingness to tolerate — actually, perhaps willingness to create — chaos has been magnified."

Yet the book has come under fire, with accusations that it's riddled with inaccuracies, typos and factual errors including dates and names. Some have denied the quotes attributed to them.

Trump, who threatened legal action to stop publication, has dismissed the book as a "work of fiction" that's  "full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist."

But Wolff defended the book, insisting that "it is absolutely in no way, shape or form a fictionalized version. 

"This is absolutely true. This is absolutely, literally, what I saw or what I heard."

Wolff said he wasn't present for some of the conversations noted in the book, and had to rely on sources from the White House. He admitted that at times, there were some marked discrepancies between those accounts. 

Trump, who threatened legal action to stop publication of the book, has dismissed it as 'full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don't exist.' (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

"So then you had to go and speak to another person and that became a kind of thing, give me your version of this story," Wolff said.  "And sometimes in the book, I just let everybody talk and you judge for yourself. Other times in the book, I thought, OK, no,  I've triangulated this enough. I'm using my level of familiarity with this  to say, OK, this is what happened here." 

Wolff said his model was famed Washington Post Watergate reporter and author Bob Woodward.

'Make a set of tradeoffs'

"In order to get this picture of inside the White House you make a set of tradeoffs exactly the way Woodward has done in a succession of books."

"You are basically dealing with versions of the truth here. My job is to sort those and to produce a book, a portrait which either comports with your idea of reality.  Or you can say ...  as the president does, it is fiction."

Wolff said the book has become a huge phenomenon, largely because of Trump's reaction.

"I almost want to say I can't tell you what the truth is.  Don't  look to me to do that. I've just written a book.  This is about what I saw what I heard. to the best of my ability to get what I believe to be the true story."

Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff says his bestselling book is in no way, shape or form a fictionalized version of events. Wolff is standing by his controversial book about President Donald Trump, and the inside operations of his White House. In this exclusive Canadian television interview, Wolff digs deeper into Fire and Fury and the political firestorm it has created 12:17

With files from Mark Gollom and The Associated Press