Betrayal: Can Breitbart Survive Steve Bannon’s Attack on President Trump?
With the publication of a new book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, all-out war appears to have broken out between the two major pillars of the MAGA movement: President Donald Trump and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.
In a shocking turn of events precipitated by the early release of several excerpts from the book, President Trump has hammered Bannon as a good-for-nothing “staffer” who had little to do with his success has either a candidate or a president and even sent Bannon a cease-and-desist order, accusing him of violating a nondisclosure agreement he signed upon coming aboard the campaign. So far, Bannon has kept close counsel about the previewed excerpts, but he has not denied saying the things that have the White House enraged.
The excerpts were first published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, where they landed with all the force of an atomic blast – no offense to Mr. Kim of North Korea. In the article, Bannon is said to have told Wolff that Donald Trump Jr. and other senior aides of the Trump campaign messed up bigtime when they agreed to meet with Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower last summer.
“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. They didn’t have any lawyers,” Bannon 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.”
When supporters of both Trump and Bannon initially got wind of the article, there were hurried cries of “fake news,” given both the author and the newspaper’s reputation. No way could Bannon have said these things. Hasn’t his website, Breitbart, been one of the main outlets screaming that the entire Russian collusion investigation was a hoax perpetrated by the Democratic Party? Why would they take that line if their CEO believes that this meeting was “treasonous?”
But when Breitbart itself ran a cover story highlighting the juicy parts of the Guardian article with no pushback whatsoever, it became clear that this was not, indeed, fake news. This was apparently obvious to the president as well, who quickly released a short statement bashing his former ally and his turncoat agenda.
“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Trump wrote on Wednesday. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
“Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look,” Trump continued. “Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base — he’s only in it for himself.”
Bannon himself only mentioned the controversy in brief passing on Breitbart’s Sirius show, denying that he was breaking with the president. “The president of the United States is a great man,” he said. “You know I support him, day in and day out, whether going through the country giving the Trump miracle speech or on the show or on the website.”
But is this a matter of “too little, too late?” Certainly it seems to be as it relates to Bannon’s relationship with Trump. But what will become of the hardcore MAGA supporters who turn to Breitbart for their primary source of conservative news? Well, if the early comments are any indication, Bannon may have finally crossed the one Republican he shouldn’t have. On Facebook and on the Breitbart site itself, the majority of commenters believe that Bannon is a traitor.
“Not sure what Bannon is trying to accomplish here, but it only helps the Democrats so what’s the point?” one of the top comments said. “Is he trying to have Trump impeached now? Stupid move no matter what’s behind it and maybe it’s time to quit Breitbart and stop listening to Bannon.”
We like much of what we’ve heard from Bannon over the last couple of years, but the fact remains that the American people voted for Donald J. Trump, not Steve Bannon. We won’t deny the influence Bannon and Breitbart have had on the conservative movement or the Trump ascendancy, but influence isn’t the same as ownership. If any one man is indispensable, it’s Trump…and we’re not even entirely sure of that. This is something that has grown larger than any one man or website or political office – a train running at full steam.
Step in front of it, and you might just get crushed.