A lawyer for President Donald Trump is seeking to halt the publication of an explosive new book that claims to have insider information on the Trump White House.

Attorney Charles J Harder instructed the book’s publisher to “immediately cease and desist from any further publication, release or dissemination of the book,” in a letter. Mr Harder says he is pursuing possible libel charges against the book’s author.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, a purported tell-all book about Mr Trump’s presidency penned by veteran journalist Michael Wolff, set off a flurry of condemnation from the White House after excerpts were published on Wednesday. Select excerpts claim that Melania Trump was devastated when her husband won the election, and that former presidential adviser Steve Bannon called a 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son, and a Kremlin-linked lawyer “treasonous”.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed the book was ”filled with false and misleading accounts from individuals who have no access or influence with the White House”. On Thursday, she told reporters that the White House had denied more than 30 requests for information from Mr Wolff.

“This book is mistake after mistake after mistake,” she said.

Ms Sanders also responded to a question about suggestions in the book, said to include purported quotes from Mr Bannon, that Mr Trump is mentally unfit to serve as president. She called such suggestions “disgraceful and laughable”.

“If we was unfit, he probably wouldn’t be sitting there and wouldn’t have defeated the most qualified group of candidates the Republican Party has ever seen,” Ms Sanders claimed.  “This is an incredibly strong and good leader…  That’s why we’ve had such a successful 2017,” she added.

A spokesperson for the First Lady said in a statement that Ms Trump was “very happy” when her husband won.

Mr Harder has also sent a cease and desist letter to Mr Bannon, claiming he breached a confidentiality agreement by making “disparaging statements” about the President to Mr Wolff.

Fire and Fury frequently cites on-the-record comments by Mr Bannon, including one where he deemed a Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”. The meeting is now of interest to both Congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller, who are probing possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia.

Mr Trump responded with a blistering statement in which he accused Mr Bannon of having gone insane.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” he said. ”When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

The President added: ”Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.”

The cease and desist letter sent to Mr Bannon accuses him of breaking his employment agreement with the Trump Organisationa and defaming the President, according to the Post. The letter orders him to stop communicating confidential or disparaging information, and to preserve all records in preparation for “imminent” legal action.

Asked if the letter should be interpreted as a threat, Ms Sanders replied: “I think it is very clear what its purpose is.”

The fallout for Mr Bannon continued on Thursday night, with billionaire conservative donor Rebekah Mercer appearing to cut ties with him. In a rare statement, Ms Mercer – who holds a minority stake in Breitbart News where Mr Bannon serves as chairman – said that she and her family have not communicated with Mr Bannon “in many months” and “have provided no financial support to his political agenda, nor do we support his recent actions and statements.”

She also said she supports President Trump and the platform upon which he ran.

An excerpt from Mr Wolff’s book claims the author conducted more than 200 interviews with the President, his senior staff, and others over an 18-month period. Mr Wolff reportedly made tapes of many of these conversations, according to the media organisation Axios. Ms Huckabee Sanders said the President had not sat down with Mr Wolff since taking office.

The book’s publishers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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