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CNN’s Jake Tapper shuts down contentious interview with Trump aide Stephen Miller

Tapper was testy. Plus: Bannon apologizes for his role in Fire and Fury.

Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon departing the White House in April 2017.
Reince Priebus, Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon departing the White House in April 2017.
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

On Sunday, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller dropped by Jake Tapper’s CNN studio to appear on State of the Union and defend his boss, President Donald Trump, from allegations made in the hottest new political book in the country — Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, a gossipy look at the fledgling administration’s first act. Miller was there to trash the book and its sources, namely Steve Bannon, ousted from the Trump train and recently spurned by his original patrons, the billionaire Mercers. Bannon’s appearance in Wolff’s book as a main voice was a betrayal. This week, the president released a statement slamming Bannon, whom he said “lost his mind.” (Later on Sunday, Bannon told Axios he regrets much of the contents of the Wolff book.)

Miller did his job well: Fire and Fury was “a work of very poorly-written fiction,” and Wolff “a garbage author of a garbage book;” Bannon’s participation was “tragic” and “unfortunate.”

“It’s tragic and unfortunate that Steve would make these grotesque comments so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive,” Miller told Tapper. Miller sought to distance himself from the Breitbart News chair, who had in fact helped him get a job with Trump in the first place. (Miller said it was actually former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski who helped him get in with Trump.) According to Miller, Bannon’s role in the Trump presidency has been “greatly exaggerated.”

The aide then lavished praise on the president, describing Trump as a “political genius” — which echoed Trump’s self-characterization on Twitter the day before. For Miller, Trump is a “self-made billionaire, who revolutionized reality TV, and who has changed the course of our politics.”

During the conversation, Miller repeatedly called Tapper “condescending” and accused CNN of “24 hours of negative, anti-Trump, hysterical coverage” that has led to “spectacularly embarrassing false reporting” from the network. CNN and other networks have committed a handful of reporting errors in recent months and weeks, but these pale in comparison to the continuous stream of lies that pour from the White House.

“Why don’t you just give me three minutes to tell you the truth about the Donald Trump that I know and that all of our campaign staff knows?” Miller asked.

“Because it’s my show, and I don’t want to do that,” Tapper replied.

The pair continued to talk over one another until Tapper told Miller to “settle down.”

Miller refused to answer serious questions about the New York Times report that special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the Russia investigation, has in his possession a letter outlining the president’s reasoning for firing former FBI Director James Comey — which Miller reportedly had a hand in drafting. The aide also distanced himself from Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russians in June 2016, then declined to weigh in on growing questions over the president’s mental stability. It should go without saying that Miller’s performance was aimed squarely at Trump, but Tapper said it anyway. “There’s one viewer that you care about right now and you’re being obsequious,” Tapper said near the end of the segment.

Tapper finally cut Miller off. “You’re being a factotum in order to please him,” Tapper said. “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time. Thank you, Stephen.”

It appears, however, that Miller accomplished his mission. Shortly after his appearance, President Trump tweeted approvingly about his performance.

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