C’mon, they can’t kill Bannon. He’s the one who knocks.
There’s lots of reporting out there today, though, that he’s crossed the one Trump advisor who not only won’t be fired but probably can’t be. Politico reported yesterday that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and America’s new czar on Iraq, Middle East peace, government organization, and half a dozen other things, has been complaining about Bannon privately. That wasn’t the first hint of tension between the two, though: Two weeks ago, WaPo published this report of a brewing turf war inside the White House between the nationalists, led of course by Bannon, and what Bannon’s allies have dubbed “the Democrats,” namely, National Economic Council chair Gary Cohn and deputy NSA Dina Powell. Cohn and Powell are close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, pitting Kushner against Bannon. (Reince Priebus, who looked to be Bannon’s main rival for power early, has ended up allied with him here as Kushner, Cohn, and Powell build influence at both their expense.) Axios described the new reality this way this morning: “The Bannonites believe the liberals staged a coup and will turn Trump into a conventional squish who betrays the very voters who brought him to power. The Jared wing thinks the Bannonites are clinically nuts.”
With Bannon having just suffered his first public diminution in power since Trump took office, the question is worth asking: Is there any truth to the rivalry rumors? Various media say yes. Politico cites five sources who claim that Bannon and Kushner have “clashed” lately, with Bannon complaining that “Kushner and his allies are trying to undermine his populist approach.” Allegedly Trump mega-donor Rebekah Mercer had to convince Bannon not to quit in frustration as Kushner’s foreign policy duties expand while Bannon’s contract. (Kushner reportedly has told friends privately that Mercer and her father “have taken too much credit for their role in Trump’s victory.”) The NYT is also hearing that Bannon threatened to resign if he was booted off the National Security Council, which, er, contradicts yesterday’s spin that he was only there in the first place to babysit Mike Flynn and rid the Council of Susan Rice’s influence. Again, Kushner supposedly played a role:
[B]ehind the scenes, White House officials said, the ideologist who enjoyed the president’s confidence became increasingly embattled as other advisers, including Mr. Trump’s daughter and son-in-law, complained about setbacks on health care and immigration…
Mr. Bannon has also been at odds with Gary Cohn, the president’s national economics adviser. Mr. Cohn is close with Mr. Kushner, who has said privately that he fears that Mr. Bannon plays to the president’s worst impulses, according to people with direct knowledge of such discussions.
Moreover, Mr. Bannon’s Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing’s only leading man. Several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda — and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the “President Bannon” puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter.
To all appearances, Kushner worked hand-in-glove last year with Bannon to get Trump elected. Now suddenly he’s supposedly worried that Bannon’s influence is pernicious. There’s a weird parallel there to how Mike Flynn — another top Trump advisor for whom the knives came out early — ended up landing the most important job in national security even though the entire Trump inner circle seems to have been leery of him since before the inauguration. If Kushner was wary of Bannon, why didn’t he object to him joining the campaign? (Or did he?) Was his silence strategic, maybe, knowing that Bannon lent Trump the populist credibility he needed on the right to galvanize the base in November? It’s weird that these guys landed jobs in the White House only to be shoved towards the door virtually from day one.
Another Bannon/Kushner tidbit from CNN:
While H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, has been working for weeks to find a way to rid the White House foreign policy operation of Bannon, it was ultimately Kushner’s influence that led to Bannon’s departure from the panel, sources said.
Another official stressed that a new power center has emerged in the West Wing that pointedly does not include Bannon. Instead, a pair of former Goldman Sachs executives — Gary Cohn and Dina Powell — appear to be in favor. Cohn acts as Trump’s chief economic adviser and Powell is a deputy national security adviser. Both are viewed internally as close to Kushner, a dynamic that rankled those in the White House close to Bannon — who have come to term Cohn as “Globalist Gary,” an insult for those aligned with the Bannon’s populist views.
That might explain why Bannon was so ticked off about being removed from the NSC that he threatened (allegedly) to quit over it. It’s not losing the seat that might have bothered him, it’s losing the power struggle with Kushner and, to a lesser extent, McMaster about whether he should remain there. That’s a bad sign for his influence going forward. He was reportedly defiant afterward, telling associates, “I love a gunfight,” but Axios claims that inside the White House “all but dad are done with Bannon and his politics.”
Here’s Joe Scarborough, who was recently accused by Roger Stone of being a media pipeline for Kushner, confirming reports that Bannon threatened to quit over the NSC demotion. Scarborough thinks Bannon would be better off running a pro-Trump Super PAC where he wouldn’t have to worry about White House office politics and could focus on lashing the left and anti-Trumpers on the right. Would Bannon want to go on working for Trump, though, even in an outside capacity, if he lost a power struggle with Kushner and was forced out ignominiously? Why wouldn’t he go back to Breitbart and start lashing Trump and Kushner for having sold out nationalists to pursue a “Democratic” agenda? Seems like that’s happening already to some extent.
Update: Oh dear. If this is true, Bannon and Kushner won’t co-exist for much longer. And if one of them has to go, it’s probably not going to be Ivanka’s husband.
“[Steve] recently vented to us about Jared being a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’…He actually said ‘cuck,’ as in “cuckservative,’” the administration official told The Daily Beast…
“Steve thinks Jared is worse than a Democrat, basically,” another official close to Bannon said. “[Steve] has a very specific vision for what he believes, and what he shares [ideologically] with Trump. And he has for a long time now seen [Jared] as a major obstacle to achieving that.”