What you need to know about the Trump-Bannon divorce and its implications in the Trump Administration.
Steve Bannon’s agenda is to break things. At his CPAC keynote last year, Bannon declared his his goal was no less than the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” He planned to primary Republican electeds rather than attempt to hold the majority. It’s helpful to remember his love of chaos when trying to parse Bannon’s actions, and his relationship with Trump.
New York Daily News Cover. Epic.
Bannon was never a Trump loyalist. But Trump had the adoring crowds. Trump had no real policy positions, but his racist views and white nationalist campaign was the perfect vehicle for Bannon’s agenda. For a while they made a formidable team, uniting the mobs offline and on. But early on there were signs it couldn’t last. Within four months of taking office, Trump — supposedly angered by Bannon’s profile — downplayed Bannon’s role in Trump’s victory, telling reporters “I’m my own strategist.” Trump fired Bannon in August and Bannon declared the Trump presidency “over.”
Breitbart has changed their coverage of the White House since Bannon’s return. On the surface, they’ve continued their support for Trump’s agenda but they’ve also taken a lot of potshots at the administration, particularly with Javanka (Bannon’s preferred nickname for Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner). Breitbart also refers to Jared as “Mr. Perfect,” and takes particular delight in his various failures. If you believe Fire and Fury Bannon spent most of his energy while at the White House fighting with Jared and Ivanka. Given how much of Breitbart’s coverage was tinged with Javanka insults, Fire and Fury’s version of events seems mostly believable.
Given all of this, Trump and Bannon’s new feud comes as no surprise. I’m also not too surprised that Bannon took the first shot. Their tension was obvious during the Alabama Senate race, and when Doug Jones won the seat over Bannon’s preferred candidate, Roy Moore, Republicans in DC were more than happy to put the blame squarely on Steve Bannon.
But as first shots go, Bannon picked a doozy! Here’s a quick refresher:
Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has described the Trump Tower meeting between the president’s son and a group of Russians during the 2016 election campaign as “treasonous” and “unpatriotic”, according to an explosive new book seen by the Guardian.
Bannon, speaking to author Michael Wolff, warned that the investigation into alleged collusion with the Kremlin will focus on money laundering and predicted: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.”
Bannon didn’t deny the quote (Apparently he tried but didn’t move fast enough.) Breitbart even wrote a news article about the Guardian piece. It was fascinating to watch Trump’s Army try and figure out what was going on and what the message was. The_Donald posted a sticky thread urging supporters not to believe anything from the media and to have faith in Steve Bannon.
Screenshot from /r/The_Donald
Once President Trump made his feelings known, his army followed suit:
- The_Donald edited their sticky thread to call Bannon their “new enemy” and started another with Bannon’s picture and the word “war.”
- Alt-right celebrities and online communities denounced Bannon just as swiftly.
- Breitbart published more news stories including Trump’s statement, but the comments section was clearly on Team Trump.
- Junior kept the base fired up on Twitter, and the ghost of Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci tweeted that he’d been right about Bannon all along.
- GOP candidates Bannon had endorsed quickly distanced themselves from him.
- Matt Drudge, who openly hates Bannon, delighted in his rival’s downfall.
- Rebekah Mercer, Bannon’s billionaire benefactor, made it known that she would no longer support Bannon’s ventures.
- Bannon lost his job at Breitbart. [editor's note: this was updated from the original piece.]
Screenshot from /r/The_Donald
I’ve long thought that taking down Frog Squad influencers one by one was a solid strategy for damaging Trump. But these guys are so good at owning themselves perhaps we don’t need to bother. Steve Bannon is done. Trump lives to fight another day, but with one less powerful voice organizing others on his behalf. Trump’s ego won’t allow him to see that as a loss but it is.
Meanwhile “drain the swamp” has become “protect the incumbents.” In a press briefing at Camp David, with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan standing right behind him, Trump promised to protect incumbents rather than risk another debacle like Alabama’s Senate race. Steve Bannon is gone and I took Trump’s remarks as assurance that his strategies are as well. It will be interesting to see how well that sits with the Frog Squad over the long term, especially if Trump’s rhetoric loses Bannon’s nationalist flair. My suspicion is that the American frogs are now a cult of Trump before any other ideology but I’ve been wrong before. Stay tuned.🔷
(This piece was first published in The Blog! and part of the Ctrl Alt Right Delete weekly newsletter, devoted to understanding how the right operates online and developing strategies and tactics to fight back. Register here to receive the newsletter.)