TrumpWatch, Day 211: Bannon v. Trump’s White House

Bannon: “Anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with”

Developments on Day 211 of the Trump Administration:

Bannon Out, Supporters Pledge “#WAR” v. White House

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon (pictured) is forced out after seven months in office, and his supporters immediately declare a campaign against the Trump Administration.

Bannon’s departure was announced on Friday, first in leaks by two Administration sources to the media and then by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sanders said, “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.”

But both sides put out their own versions. Administration officials said Trump had decided two weeks ago to remove Bannon, who had joined the election campaign in August 2016. The hard-right ideologue had been seen as vulnerable since the appointment of John Kelly as Chief of Staff earlier this month, with the line that the retired general would end White House in-fighting and bring discipline.

Bannon appeared to seal his fate with the publication on Wednesday on commments that he made to the liberal outlet The American Prospect. The chief strategist criticized Trump’s aggressive promises of military action against North Korea, bragged that he could remove State Department personnel, mocked advisors like National Economic Council Gary Cohn for “wetting themselves” over his advocacy of protectionist trade policies, and described some fellow “white nationalists” as “clowns” and “losers”.

The sources said that Trump, who always was hostile about publicity given to Bannon — including a Time magazine cover — that threatened to overshadow the President, confirmed his decision in a meeting on Friday morning.

Bannon’s allies — and later Bannon — maintained that he had submitted his resignation on August 7. They said that the announcement of his department was scheduled for this week, but was delayed after last weekend’s white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

A summary of the past four weeks in the Trump Administration:


Hours after his departure, Bannon was back as executive chairman of Breitbart, the hard-right outlet that he edited before joining the Trump campaign — even as observers were wondering how he could return to the position if he signed a security clearance promising non-disclosure of Government information.

Bannon promised not to attack Donald Trump or his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Kushner, but spared no words about any others in the Administration: “In many ways I think I can be more effective fighting from the outside for the agenda President Trump ran on. And anyone who stands in our way, we will go to war with.”

Joel Pollak, a senior editor at Breitbart, tweeted after the announcement of Bannon’s removal, “#WAR”. While Bannon told reporters that Pollak had gone too far, articles in the outlet used the hashtag before adjusting the line: “Recently departed White House strategist Steve Bannon is preparing a war for Donald Trump, not against him.”

Bloomberg’s Joshua Green, who took one of Bannon’s calls, said the ideologue “sounded like he’d just consumed 40 Red Bulls”.

In another Friday interview, Bannon told The Weekly Standard:

The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else.

And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.

Despite Bannon’s promise yesterday not to lash out at Ivanka Trump and Kushner, the two are likely to be targets of the hard-right. The chief strategist repeatedly clashed with them in the White House, and Breitbart has led the presentation of the two as “globalists” undermining Trump’s supposed “America First” agenda.

An assault upon National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is inevitable — Breitbart and hard-right outlets have been deriding McMaster, a retired general like Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, for weeks with “#McMasterOut” after the chief strategist forced out Bannon’s allies from the National Security Council. And alt-right polemicist Mike Cernovich proclaimed a “coup” by Vice President Mike Pence on Friday.

Bannon told the Weekly Standard:

Now, it’s gonna be Trump. The path forward on things like economic nationalism and immigration, and his ability to kind of move freely….I just think his ability to get anything done—particularly the bigger things, like the wall, the bigger, broader things that we fought for, it’s just gonna be that much harder….

There’s about to be a jailbreak of these moderate guys on the Hill [Congress]….It’s the Republican establishment. The Republican establishment has no interest in Trump’s success on this. They’re not populists, they’re not nationalists, they had no interest in his program. Zero. It was a half-hearted attempt at Obamacare reform, it was no interest really on the infrastructure, they’ll do a very standard Republican version of taxes.

What Trump ran on—border wall, where is the funding for the border wall, one of his central tenets, where have they been? Have they rallied around the Perdue-Cotton immigration bill? On what element of Trump’s program, besides tax cuts—which is going to be the standard marginal tax cut—where have they rallied to Trump’s cause? They haven’t.

Meanwhile, Bannon’s friends put out the ominous signals. “Steve is now unchained,” one said. “Fully unchained.”

Another declared, “It’s now a Democrat White House,” and a third asserted, “Winter is here.”

Defections Continue Over Trump’s White Supremacy Approach

Defections from the White House’s advisory continue over Donald Trump’s failure to criticize white supremacists over their violence in Charlottesville last weekend.

On Friday Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor advising Mr. Trump on regulatory issues, stepped. A.R. Bernard, a pastor on the president’s Evangelical Advisory Board, left over a “deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration”.

CEOs disbanded advisory boards on manufacturing and on business and industry earlier this week. The White House was forced on Thursday to abandon its board on infrastructure, as Trump’s remarks and a chaotic press conference on Tuesday overshadowed its Infrastructure Week. More than half of the members of the 15-person Digital Economy Board of Advisors, set up last year by the Obama Administration, have resigned.

And yesterday the entire Committee on the Arts and Humanities quit with a forthright statement:

Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.

Murdoch Rebukes Trump with $1 Million Donation to ADL

James Murdoch, the son of the conservative tycoon Rupert Murdoch and a CEO in the family’s media empire, rebukes Donald Trump with a $1 million donation to the Anti-Defamation League.

In an e-mail to many “friends”, Murdoch hit back at Trump’s perceived support of white supremacists and their neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic flags, gestures, and chants in Charlottesville, Virginia marches last weekend:

I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.

The Murdochs own Fox News, which has been a vocal supporter of Trump.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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