Well, it looks like President Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon are buddies no longer.
On Wednesday, Trump’s former campaign manager and chief advisor made some incendiary comments about the president in an interview with The Guardian. In his tirade against the Trump administration, Bannon implied that members of the Trump campaign were guilty of treason. True to form, Trump gave a harsh response.
The ensuing media storm set the internet on fire and prompted political junkies prepare popcorn, sit back on their favorite chairs, and watch the fun.
Bannon Turns on Trump
On Wednesday, the Guardian released a report discussing an upcoming book about the Trump administration. The book, entitled Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, was written by author Michael Wolff, and it includes interviews with key officials within the administration. Excerpts of the book were released to several media outlets.
According to Wolff, Bannon slammed Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner for agreeing to meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to obtain negative information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers,” Trump’s former advisor said. “Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”
To make matters worse, Bannon also told Wolff that he believed Trump also met with Veselnitskaya as well as other individuals representing the Kremlin. “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” he said. But he didn’t stop there.
Bannon also speculated that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is going after Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. “This is all about money laundering,” he said. “Mueller chose Weissmann first, and he is a money-laundering guy. Their path to fucking Trump goes right through Paul Manafort, Don Jr. and Jared Kushner…it’s as plain as a hair on your face.”
Of course, the president could not let Bannon’s accusations go unanswered.
Trump Issues a Scathing Response
The president released a statement responding to Bannon’s comments, and as usual, he didn’t hold back. “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.”
Trump went on to mock his former advisor for backing Roy Moore, the losing Republican senatorial candidate in Alabama. “Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country,” Trump said. “Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans.”
The president went on to state that Bannon did not represent his base, but that he is “only in it for himself.” Finally, Trump confirmed what many already believed: that Bannon was responsible for some of the leaks that came out of the White House. “Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was.”
But the president was not finished. Later in the day, his lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to Bannon. The later stated the following:
“You [Bannon] have breached the Agreement by, among other things, communicating with author Michael Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members, and the Company [the campaign], disclosing Confidential Information to Mr. Wolff, and making disparaging statements and in some cases outright defamatory statements to Mr. Wolff about Mr. Trump, his family members.”
But who will win this battle in the end?
Why Bannon Will Lose This Battle
So far, Bannon has not denied criticizing the president. This is significant for two reasons. Michael Wolff is known for falsifying quotes in his books. Indeed, even The Washington Post published a piece expressing their doubts as to the veracity of the quotes in his upcoming book. Moreover, at least one person mentioned in the Guardian’s article has already come forward stating that Wolff misquoted him.
Simply put, this does not look good for Bannon.
Prominent conservatives in the government and media have already turned on the former advisor. Radio talk show host and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch excoriated Bannon on Twitter:
“Bannon doesn’t war with the media. Please. He wars with conservatives. With Republicans. He colludes with mainstream media to leak stories to undermine the Trump admin — it’s why he was fired.”
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, who famously sparred with Bannon last year, also took to Twitter to denounce Bannon, “I said what I said in the Summer take out the expletives and pay closer attention. Btw, @realDonaldTrump is doing a great job.”
Liz Wheeler, host of “The Tipping Point,” on One America News Network tweeted:
“Steve Bannon to Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes: “There’s nothing to the Russia investigation. It’s a waste of time.” (Nov 17, 2017)
Steve Bannon to NYT: “I think the collusion thing, and I said this from day one, is a joke.” (Nov 10, 2017)
Several GOP lawmakers also criticized Bannon publicly. But it is important to note that Breitbart’s readers also reacted negatively to the news. A significant amount of comments on Breitbart’s site were decidedly anti-Bannon.
After he was fired from the Trump administration, Bannon sought to position himself as the champion for Trumpism. Indeed, he boasted of having more power now that he is back in charge of Breitbart News. However, events have not progressed as Bannon wished.
After doubling down on his support for Roy Moore after allegations of sexual assault surfaced, his candidate was defeated by a weak Democratic contender. This loss – along with earning President Trump’s ire, could be the first step in Bannon’s downfall.
If he doesn’t explicitly deny making these comments, it is difficult to see how Bannon will retain his influence in the conservative movement. Either way, it will be fun for us political junkies to see how this all turns out.