Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon told congressional investigators that the controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton was “unpatriotic,” an acknowledgement of comments he’s tried to publicly distance himself from, according to sources familiar with his closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this week.
Interested in Russia Investigation?Add Russia Investigation as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Russia Investigation news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Bannon, according to “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff, said the meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort was “treasonous” and “unpatriotic."
“Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad sh--, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately,” Bannon said, according to Wolff.
He later attempted to walk back the comments, which reportedly angered President Trump, saying in a statement that the eldest Trump son “is both a patriot and a good man,” and that the “treasonous” comments were directed at Manafort.
Two sources familiar with Bannon’s congressional appearance tell ABC News that Bannon stood by his description of the meeting as “unpatriotic,” but told lawmakers his initial description of the meeting as “treasonous” was exaggerated.
A third source familiar with Bannon’s interview told ABC News that Bannon’s characterization of the meeting as “unpatriotic” behind closed doors was only a reference to Manafort, not Trump Jr. or Kushner.
Bannon only said that the meeting “displayed poor judgment” on the part of Trump Jr. and Kushner, but was “excusable because they were newcomers to political campaigns,” the source said.
Bannon also told the committee he was speculating when he suggested to Wolff that it was likely that Trump Jr. brought the Russian lawyer and other individuals in the meeting to meet with Donald Trump in Trump Tower, according to two sources.
"The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father's office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” Bannon told Wolff.
Sources familiar with Bannon's interview said he also told the committee that he had communicated with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer and Mark Corallo, the former spokesman for the president’s legal team, about the Trump Tower meeting after the New York Times broke the news of the meeting in July of 2017. Bannon’s comments to the committee about these conversations were first reported by Axios.
Bannon is expected back before the committee later this month after he refused to answer questions about his time working for Trump during the transition and in the Oval Office.
Bannon did not respond to a request for comment.
ABC News' Tara Palmeri contributed to this report.