1st test comes in Alabama Senate primary on September 26
Developments on Day 240 of the Trump Administration:
GOP Leaders Get Ready for Bannon Assault in Congressional Primaries
Republican leaders prepare for the assault of Steve Bannon — alt-right activist, former White House chief strategist, and executive officer of Breitbart — through challengers to GOP incumbents in Congressional primaries next year.
Bannon, pushed out of the White House last month by Chief of Staff John Kelly and his allies, and his Breitbart immediately proclaimed “#WAR” against the GOP leadership and Trump’s advisors, while insisting that the battle was for Trump and the future of his Presidency. In an interview broadcast on prime-time TV last Sunday, he asserted:
The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election. That’s a brutal fact we have to face….They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented. It’s very obvious. It’s obvious as– it’s obvious as the– it’s obvious as night follows day [this] is what they’re trying to do.
Bannon is already grooming challengers in the 2018 primaries, including against Senators Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada. He is reportedly also aiming at Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are now responding. Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce, told The Washington Post:
It’s shaping up to be McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund and the Chamber against Bannon.
And we will take that fight.
An initial battle will be staged this month in Alabama. Luther Strange, appointed in February to fill the seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is facing former state Supreme Court judge Roy Moore, a conservative evangelical who has twice been removed from the bench for defying legal decisions.
The GOP establishment is backing Strange while Bannon, the alt-right, and some conservative Republicans are cheerleading for Moore, who led Strange by 39 to 33% in the first round of voting last month.
Throughout the campaign, Trump has backed Stange with a series of Twitter message. On Saturday, he tweeted that he will
visit Huntsville in northern Alabama on September 23, three days before the ballot.
I will be in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday night to support Luther Strange for Senate. "Big Luther" is a great guy who gets things done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2017
Meanwhile, the Senate Leadership Fund is criticizing Bannon. SLF President Steven Law said in a statement that the former chief strategist was “dead wrong” when he used last week’s TV interview to criticize Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey in early May.
The Chamber of Commerce’s Reed said, “[Bannon] is turning into a rallying point for the alt-right, which is kind of bizarre because half of what he does is damage his former client and friend.”
Bannon’s camp hit back, calling McConnell and his allies “corrupt and incompetent”. One activist close to Bannon snapped, “At the end of the day, folks like that think the president’s base is stupid. It shows the arrogance of the Republican political class in Washington.”
Last Tuesday, the conservative advocacy group Great America Alliance, overseen by Bannon protege and former deputy White House political director Andy Surabian, released a digital ad with a montage of grainy photos of McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, proclaiming that Alabama’s Senate hopeful Strange was “appointed by the swamp”.
Bannon is reportedly backed by billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and his daughter. They have approached Ed Rollins, the veteran GOP strategist who leads the Great America Political Action Committee.
With its far-from-subtle approach, Breitbart makes its contribution this morning, “STRANGER DANGER: Trump Announces Plans to Campaign for ‘Big Luther’ in Alabama…as Judge Moore Commands Strong Lead”.
Amid Questions About Flynn’s Nuclear Consultancy, Revelation of A Secret Meeting with King of Jordan
Questions about former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn using his position to advance his private consultancy are reinforced by revelation of a secret meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in New York.
Last week new information added to the story of how Flynn, as a member of the Trump transition team, continued to promote a multi-billion-dollar project for privately-developed nuclear reactors across the Middle East.
Now sources have explained how Flynn, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former chief strategist Steve Bannon greeted the Jordanian king on January 5 at the Four Seasons Hotel in lower Manhattan and then moved in a fleet of SUVs and a sedan to a different location.
“People close to the three Trump advisors” say that the nuclear deal was not discussed. But a “federal official with access to a document created by a law enforcement agency” confirmed that the proposal was a topic of conversation.
Flynn’s White House disclosure forms said he stopped working on the deal in December 2016, but he continued to press the initiative after being named as National Security Advisor.
At the time, there was no reference to Abdullah’s departure from Jordan apart from a short note on his website: “His Majesty King Abdullah on Saturday arrived back home after a private visit abroad.”
Kushner initially failed to disclose any meetings with foreign officials on his security clearance form. He later amended the document to include more than 100 foreign contacts, including Abdullah.
Manafort Spokesman Testifies Before Trump-Russia Grand Jury
Jason Maloni, a spokesman for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jason Maloni, testifies for about 2 1/2 hours before a federal grand jury in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Maloni gave the briefest of statements after his Friday morning appearance, “I was ordered to appear before the grand jury. I answered questions and I’ve been dismissed. That’s all I have to say.”
Several members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team left the courthouse shortly after Maloni, with no comment to reporters.