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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Trump tries to halt publication of bombshell book about White House

His attorney sent a cease and desist letter to 'Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House' author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt and Co.

US president Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on January 4, 2018. Alex Wong / Pool / EPA
US president Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on January 4, 2018. Alex Wong / Pool / EPA

An attorney for US president Donald Trump sought on Thursday to halt publication of an upcoming bombshell book about his White House, claiming it was "libellous".

The cease-and-desist letter to author Michael Wolff and publisher Henry Holt and Co. claimed the book contained "numerous false and/or baseless statements" about Mr Trump.

The book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is scheduled to be published on January 9, but excerpts appeared in several media outlets on Wednesday, prompting an angry reaction from the White House.

Mr Trump's attorney also sent a cease-and-desist letter to former presidential chief strategist Steve Bannon, accusing him of violating a non-disclosure agreement by speaking to Mr Wolff.

In the letter, which was quoted by US media, lawyer Charles Harder wrote: "You have breached the agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr Trump, his family members" and his presidential campaign.

The letter accused Mr Bannon of "disclosing confidential information to Mr Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr Wolff about Mr Trump [and] his family members".

In the excerpts of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Mr Bannon is quoted as having described a meeting between Mr Trump's eldest son, son-in-law and campaign chairman and a Kremlin-connected lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic".

Mr Bannon, who left the White House in August, is also quoted as saying that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election will focus on money laundering.

Donald Trump Jr took a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after an intermediary promised material that would incriminate Mr Trump's Democratic rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

Mr Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting at Trump Tower in New York.

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"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," Mr Bannon was quoted as saying in the book. "They didn't have any lawyers.

"Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad s***, and I happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately," he said.

The US president hit back at Mr Bannon, saying he "has nothing to do with me or my presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind".

Mr Trump said that Mr Bannon — who engineered the New York real estate mogul's link to the nationalist far right and helped create a fertile media atmosphere for Mr Trump's platform — was "only in it for himself".

Meanwhile Mr Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort sued Mr Mueller on Wednesday, alleging that his office's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia exceeds its legal authority.

The lawsuit could be the first legal test of how far Mr Mueller's mandate extends, a question that is critical to his investigations into Mr Manafort's and others' financial, real estate and other dealings.

Under the terms of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein's order in May appointing Mr Mueller, the special prosecutor not only can probe links or co-ordination between Mr Trump's campaign and Russia but also can look into "any matters that arose or may arise directly" from the investigation.

Mr Manafort's indictment made no reference to any activity related to his work on the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, and the lawsuit asked the court to "set aside all actions" taken so far against him.