Two generals, an outside bomb-thrower, and a Never-Trump columnist take aim at president’s top strategist
Steve Bannon, one of President Donald Trump’s top political advisers, is facing a concerted effort to oust him from the White House, led by an unlikely cast of detractors.
Bannon’s principal adversaries are the two generals most closely advising Trump: John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, and H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser. But in conversations with various figures in and around the White House, it appears the pair are getting help from unlikely sources, ranging from Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone to National Review magazine.
Bannon, the former chairman of Breitbart News, has been in the crosshairs before. But this time it seems his enemies feel more emboldened to try to take Trump’s chief strategist out of the game for good.
Whether or not the effort has any chance of success remains dubious.
On Monday, a top priority for Bannon came to fruition as the president began a crackdown on intellectual-property abuse by China. On Tuesday, Trump’s trade representative will begin renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, another Bannon priority. And later this month, Trump is likely to crack down on the abusive importation of steel and aluminum below market value — a third campaign pledge Trump’s top strategist has pushed.
Yet the media have provided fodder to try to separate Trump from Bannon, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman in the final months of the 2016 campaign.
Trump does not like being upstaged in media by his advisers, or placed on equal footing with his staffers. When Bannon was featured on the cover of a late January edition of Time magazine, one of Trump’s favorite media outlets, the president was reportedly furious.
The cover read, “The Great Manipulator.” The headline read: “Is Steve Bannon the Second Most Powerful Man in the World?”
Trump moved on. But when Bannon began feuding with Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, in April, Trump issued a small ultimatum to the New York Post.
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” said Trump, noting Bannon was brought on in the late summer of 2016. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve.” (But Trump had known Bannon, and had sought out his support in the GOP primaries. Trump got it, too — Breitbart rained down furious blows against all major Republican presidential candidates except Trump.)
Now a book by Joshua Green seems to give Bannon equal credit for Trump’s startling Nov. 8 victory.
“[Trump] is very pissed about Steve’s vanity biography, ‘Devil’s Bargain,'” said a longtime Trump confidante in a text to LifeZette.
For the book, Green got access to Bannon.
Normally, presidents would not even notice such things, but the confidante says Trump has noticed the book and may think Bannon is getting too close to the spotlight.
But that will not stop Bannon’s enemies from trying to use the book as a wedge to separate Trump from his strategist.
Bannon’s new rival in the West Wing is John Kelly, a retired Marine general and Trump’s new chief of staff.
Kelly replaced Reince Priebus in late July. Reportedly, Kelly is in New Jersey with Trump for summer vacation, and he is reviewing staff.
Bannon, as presidential chief strategist, might normally go unnoticed or undisturbed by Kelly, but Bannon is currently fighting a proxy war with Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser.
“Steve’s access to the president is very threatening to the [generals],” the Trump confidante and longtime friend of the president told LifeZette.
Bannon and McMaster have clashed over what Bannon feels are foreign policy positions that conflict with Trump’s positions on the campaign trail. McMaster, for instance, wants troop expansions in Afghanistan.
Bannon’s allies are currently bashing McMaster on social media and on webpages, something McMaster and perhaps Kelly blame directly on Bannon. McMaster is so angry that he would not even say on Sunday, while appearing on ABC News, whether he could continue to work with Bannon.
But the pair of generals appear to have an unlikely ally in the fight to undercut Bannon: Roger Stone, a longtime friend and informal adviser to Trump.
“I do think he’s in trouble, but it’s trouble of his own making,” said Stone of Bannon while speaking to The New York Times. “I don’t know why conservatives would be upset about him being fired. He has not delivered for them.”
Stone has been dogging Bannon on Twitter for weeks, saying he is ineffective and that he is allowing the generals to take over policy.
Adding to the odd alliance is National Review’s David French, an avowed Never-Trumper who called for Bannon to be fired.
But the strategist does have his defenders. New York attorney Sam Nunberg, a Stone ally, broke with Stone and told The Daily Caller that there would be serious political consequences if Bannon were fired.
The White House did not respond for comment, and Bannon declined to comment on the record.