Bannon: Russia probe set back efforts to work with Moscow

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon said Tuesday that the "poisonous" atmosphere that built in Washington during the now-completed Russia investigation has set back efforts to work with Russia "to unite the Judeo-Christian West."

Bannon is in Italy working to unite nationalist voters ahead of May 23-26 elections to the European Parliament.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the Foreign Press Association in Rome, Bannon said China — not Russia — is the "existential threat" to the Western world.

He praised how special counsel Robert Mueller carried out his investigation — which recently concluded President Donald Trump did not collude with Russia — but described it as a distraction.

"Eventually we've got to unite the Judeo-Christian West and Russia is part of that, and now that's going to take many, many, many decades," Bannon said.

Bannon, who is Catholic, also lashed out at Pope Francis, saying he should focus on fixing the sex abuse crisis in the church and stay out of politics. The pope has often called for acceptance and compassion for refugees and migrants.

"The Pope should, to me, stop focusing on free citizens and populists and nationalists and sovereignty movements that are trying get their countries back, and make their countries stronger," he said. "And he should start to focus on the metastasizing cancer in the Catholic Church or we are not going to have an apparatus of the Catholic Church because it is going to be financially liquidated."