Steve Bannon’s position as chief White House strategist appeared to be secure this week after President Donald Trump doubled down on framing “both sides” as equally at fault for last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville. But after a couple of ill-advised interviews with the New York Times and the American Prospect, Bannon was dumped on a Friday afternoon, like several Trump associates gone before him. Among other things, the president apparently didn’t appreciate Bannon’s habit of taking credit for his election victory.
Representative Steve King told the New York Times earlier in the week that conservatives would be “crushed” if Bannon were ousted. On August 17, he lamented to Philip Rucker of the Washington Post, “With Steve Bannon gone, what’s left of the conservative core in the West Wing?”
King didn’t elaborate on what conservatives admired in Bannon, but he has never espoused the “economic populist” agenda of higher taxes on the rich or tearing up trade agreements. Rather, Bannon and Republicans like King share a delight in exploiting racial and ethnic resentments for political gain.
I am inclined to agree with Sarah Kendzior: “Bannon may be just as useful for Trump outside the White House as he was within it–perhaps more so.” Bannon himself told Bloomberg reporter Joshua Green, “I’m leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America.” (Green wrote the book Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.)
This is an open thread: all topics welcome. The funniest political story I read this week was by John Bresnahan and Rachael Bade for Politico, detailing the “agonizing, 8-page memo” of instructions for staffers charged with driving GOP Representative Todd Rokita of Indiana. I’ve heard some good stories from Iowans who have chauffeured candidates or elected officials, but nothing approaching that level of high-maintenance behavior.
UPDATE: Added below more comments from Bannon and Trump.
Peter J. Boyer interviewed Bannon for the Weekly Standard on August 18:
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” Bannon said Friday, shortly after confirming his departure. “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.” […]
Bannon says that his departure was voluntary, and that he’d planned it to coincide with the one-year anniversary of his joining the Trump campaign as chief executive, on August 14, 2016. […]
It is plainly Bannon’s view that his departure is not a defeat for him personally, but for the ideology he’d urged upon the president, as reflected in Trump’s provocative inaugural address—in which he spoke of self-dealing Washington politicians, and their policies that led to the shuttered factories and broken lives of what he called “American carnage.” Bannon co-authored that speech (and privately complained that it had been toned down by West Wing moderates like Ivanka and Jared).
And, he says, Trump encouraged him to take on the Republican establishment. “I said, ‘look, I’ll focus on going after the establishment.’ He said, ‘good, I need that.’ I said, ‘look, I’ll always be here covering for you.’”
Trump tweeted on August 19,
Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews…maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 19, 2017
SECOND UPDATE: Some 20,000 to 30,000 people turned out in Boston on August 19 to protest a planned white supremacist rally. Kristi Winter posted this picture of a sign
a woman Deb Chachra was carrying. I love hand-made political signs, and this one is an instant classic.
THIRD UPDATE: Joe Uchill reported for The Hill,
“People with Top Secret clearances are bound by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for life,” said Bradley Moss, a partner at the Law Office of Mark Zaid specializing in national security and security clearance law.
“Any time Breitbart now prints classified information they might now be required to clear it with the government,” according to Moss. […]
On Twitter, Susan Hennessey, a former attorney in the Office of General Counsel of the National Security Agency and current managing editor at the commentary website Lawfare, noted Bannon’s obligations go beyond simply not revealing classified data he would have been privy to.
“Bannon not only has prepublication obligations, he also has a legal duty to report if he ever learns of a classified leak. I’m able to work @lawfareblog because, unlike media outlets, we do not & will not publish classified info. Will Breitbart have same policy?” she wrote on Twitter.
That analysis assumes the Trump administration would enforce such laws with Bannon.
Some White House officials indicated to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman “that while Bannon is problematic from outside, they found cred he had talking from within the West Wing to be more dangerous.”
Top image: Steve Bannon on the left, Stephen Miller in the center, Sebastian Gorka on the right.