President Donald Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, allegedly described the real estate mogul's business empire as a "criminal enterprise" — and speculated that the president is lying about being a billionaire.
The comments were reportedly made during interviews with journalist Michael Wolff, who will release a sequel to his successful best-selling book on Trump's presidency, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," on June 4.
In the follow up, "Siege: Trump Under Fire," Wolff writes, "Trump was vulnerable, because for 40 years he had run what increasingly seemed to resemble a semi-criminal enterprise."
"I think we can drop the ‘semi’ part," Bannon allegedly said.
Wolff also writes that Bannon believes an investigation into Trump's finances would cost the president the support of even his most die-hard followers, since it would expose him as a fraud. According to Wolff, Bannon wrote that "This is where it isn’t a witch hunt — even for the hard core, this is where he turns into just a crooked business guy, and one worth $50m instead of $10bn."
"Not the billionaire he said he was, just another scumbag," Bannon added of Trump.
This is not the first time Bannon's frankness in conversations with Wolff has made headlines. In his previous book about Trump, Bannon told Wolff he had a dim view of the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, when top ranking officials in Trump's campaign met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer to learn about possible dirt that Russia might have on Hillary Clinton.
"The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor with no lawyers," Bannon told Wolff. "They didn’t have any lawyers."
He later added, "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit — and I happen to think it’s all of that — you should have called the FBI immediately."
Regarding Trump's claim that he had minimal involvement in that meeting, Bannon also claimed that "the chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumps up to his father’s office on the 26th floor is zero."
Bannon has previously alluded to the possibility that the truly damning aspect of the Mueller investigation would be what it reveals, if anything, about the president's alleged financial crimes.
"You realize where this is going," Bannon told Wolff. "This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to f**king Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner . . . It's as plain as a hair on your face. It goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner shit. The Kushner shit is greasy. They're going to go right through that. They're going to roll those . . . guys up and say play me or trade me."
Although Bannon had initially been a close member of the president's inner circle, he fell out of favor with the president and has subsequently been outspoken in criticizing Trump's conduct as president.