Will Trump Throw Bannon Overboard for Jared Kushner?
According to reports in Axios, the New York Post, and elsewhere, the infighting within the West Wing is growing so intolerable that President Trump may be ready to choose sides and dispense with the losing faction. And if you can gleam any clues from Trump’s public comments, the losing faction in this case could include White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon.
The signs of Bannon’s waning influence aren’t hard to find; though the administration has downplayed Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council, you can’t see that move as anything other than a demotion. It also signals a power shift in the White House – away from Bannon and towards Jared Kushner and his group, which the former Breitbart CEO refers to as “the Democrats.” That power shift is likely also exemplified by the recent news that Ivanka Trump is now keeping an office in the West Wing, despite not being an official government employee.
In an interview with the New York Post, Trump mused that no one in his administration was irreplaceable. Of his chief strategist, he said that Bannon was a “good guy,” but that didn’t make him invincible. He told the Post that he’d instructed the warring factions to get on the same page.
“I told them to straighten it out or I will,” Trump said.
In the same interview, Trump downplayed Bannon’s role in his 2016 victory.
“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
Taken on its own, we could just chalk this up to Trump’s brash management style and an unwillingness to share the core credit for his astonishing political rise. But if we take those comments in the context of Bannon’s removal from the NSC, the controversial Syria strike – which Bannon is said to have opposed – and Trump’s obvious and understandable allegiance to his own family, they don’t feel like a great omen for Bannon’s future in the White House.
Now, the fate of the country obviously doesn’t rest on the career prospects of Steve Bannon, but if Bannon’s demotion heralds an uptick of influence for Ivanka, Jared, McMaster, Cohn, and the like, it could spell doom for Trump’s agenda. How much of it do these players really support? Nevermind if they are as conservative as the Bannon wing of the Republican Party; are they even as conservative as the Republican establishment? Are they, in fact, conservatives at all, in any sense of the word?
Maybe it doesn’t matter. After all, Trump was Trump before Bannon ever came on board; like the president said, he’d already dispensed with the entire GOP field by the time he hired the man behind Breitbart News. And it’s possible that these inner-sanctum conflicts are being blown out of proportion.
Still, if you’re looking for a reason to get nervous…