World news

Tony Blair says claims he warned Donald Trump of UK spying a complete fabrication

Former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon

Tony Blair has dismissed allegations that he warned Donald Trump that UK intelligence agencies may have spied on him as a "complete fabrication".

The claims are contained in the book Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House, which has sparked furore in Washington with explosive claims about feuding within the US president's inner circle.

Mr Trump launched a scathing attack on ex-aide Steve Bannon over the book which portrays the US president as an undisciplined man-child who did not actually want to win the White House and quotes his former adviser as calling his son's contact with a Russian lawyer "treasonous".

Hitting back via a formal White House statement rather than a more-typical Twitter volley, Mr Trump insisted that Mr Bannon had little to do with his victorious campaign and "has nothing to do with me or my presidency".

"When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind," he said on Wednesday.

Writer Michael Wolff's book paints Mr Trump as a leader who does not understand the weight of the presidency and spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the phone to old friends.

Later on Wednesday, Mr Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder, threatened legal action against Mr Bannon aide over "disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements".

Mr Harder wrote to Mr Bannon, saying he had violated confidentiality agreements by speaking to Mr Wolff.

His letter demanded Mr Bannon "cease and desist" any further disclosure of confidential information.

White House aides were blindsided when early excerpts from Fire And Fury: Inside The Trump White House were published online by New York magazine and other media outlets ahead of the January 9 publication date.

The release left Mr Trump "furious" and "disgusted", said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who complained that the book contained "outrageous" and "completely false claims against the president, his administration and his family".

Asked what had specifically prompted the president's fury with Mr Bannon, she said: "I would certainly think that going after the president's son in an absolutely outrageous and unprecedented way is probably not the best way to curry favour with anybody."

In the book Mr Bannon is quoted as describing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump jnr, Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer as "treasonous" and "unpatriotic". The meeting has become a focus of federal and congressional investigators.

Mr Bannon also told Mr Wolff that investigations into potential collusion between Russia and Trump campaign officials were likely to focus on money laundering.

"They're going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV," Mr Bannon was quoted as saying in one section which was first reported by the Guardian.

A spokeswoman for Mr Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.

The Times reported that Mr Wolff's book contains an account of a meeting between Mr Blair and senior Trump aide Jared Kushner at the White House last February.

Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This story is a complete fabrication, literally beginning to end.

"I've never had such conversations in the White House, outside of the White House, with Jared Kushner, with anybody else."

Asked if he had met Mr Kushner, the former prime minister replied: "Of course I have met him and we discussed the Middle East peace process."

Mr Blair insisted he had not been "angling for some job" during the meeting.

"I never sought one, was never offered one, don't want one," he added.

According to Mr Wolff, Mr Blair shared a "juicy rumour" that the British had Trump campaign staff under surveillance during the election, "monitoring its telephone calls and other communications and possibly even Trump himself".

The former prime minister reportedly gave the impression that Barack Obama's administration had hinted that such activities would be helpful.

The book reportedly suggested that Mr Blair was angling for a role as Middle East adviser to the president at the time.

A month after the supposed meeting, then White House press spokesman Sean Spicer provoked a transatlantic spat by repeating claims made on Fox News that Mr Obama had asked British intelligence to spy on Trump Tower.

The British government's GCHQ surveillance centre dismissed the claims at the time as "utterly ridiculous".

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access