I’m not a believer in eclipses as omens but the fact that Breitbarters are discussing an anti-Trump alliance with Paul Ryan on a day when the moon is blotting out the sun seems like solid evidence that something supernatural is going down.
I’ll be blogging this afternoon from a bunker.
In his feud with Kushner, Bannon may have a powerful ally: Reince Priebus, also recently departed from the White House with a quiver of grudges. Recently, according to several sources, Bannon has told friends he wants Priebus to give his account of the James Comey firing to special prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to a source close to Priebus, the former chief of staff believes that the decision was made during an early May weekend in Bedminster, where Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Stephen Miller were with the president. Trump returned to the Oval Office on Monday, May 8 and told other aides he intended to fire Comey…
Breitbart’s defense of Trump has so far helped keep the Russia scandal from gaining traction on the right. But that could swiftly change if Trump, under the influence of Kushner and Cohn, deviates too far from the positions he ran on. If that happens, said one high-level Breitbart staffer, “We’re prepared to help Paul Ryan rally votes for impeachment.”
Would lifelong conservative Mike Pence be a strong voice for Trump-style nationalism as president? Inheriting Trump’s base might force him in that direction. But I wouldn’t bet on it.
I don’t know why Bannon thinks exposing Kushner’s role in having Comey fired would be some major act of revenge. For one thing, we already know about it. The Times reported months ago that Kushner favored firing the FBI chief while Bannon thought the timing wasn’t right. I don’t see what crime Kushner might have committed in advising Trump to fire Comey either. Even if Jared knew that Trump had previously leaned on Comey to go easy on Mike Flynn, Kushner’s still just an advisor and the decision to terminate Comey was Trump’s. What charge would Mueller conceivably bring — conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice? Seems thin. On top of all that, Trump supporters by and large defend his decision to fire Comey, just as they defend everything Trump does. Firing Comey was truer to the spirit of “#WAR” than Bannon’s own advice was. Comey wouldn’t drop the investigation of Mike Flynn or say publicly that the president himself wasn’t under investigation in Russiagate, so Trump kicked him to the curb. Why are Breitbart’s Kushner-haters supposed to hold that against Kushner instead of applauding him for it?
This paragraph from the same Vanity Fair piece is interesting, though, in light of the news this weekend that Bannon’s thinking of starting a populist competitor to Fox News:
Last week in New York, he huddled with his billionaire benefactor, Robert Mercer, and discussed ways to expand Breitbart into TV, sources said. “Television is definitely on the table,” a Bannon adviser told me. A partnership with Sinclair remains a possibility. In recent days, Sinclair’s chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn has spoken with Breitbart editors about ways to form an alliance, one Breitbart staffer said. “All the Sinclair guys are super tight with Breitbart. Imagine if we got together Hannity and O’Reilly and started something?”
“The [Murdoch] sons tell anyone who will listen that they fancy themselves globalists who one day would like to steer Fox away from its hard-right roots and sexist, white-men’s-club reputation and reality,” according to Axios, imagining the coming war between a more centrist Fox and a populist Bannon-Sinclair collaboration. The wrinkle, though, as I said yesterday, is that Fox News primetime is pretty darned populist-nationalist right now and might be even more so soon. Tucker’s an unabashed nationalist at 8; Hannity’s an ardent Trumper who’s always careful to stay on the right side of grassroots opinion at 10; and Laura Ingraham, another Carlson-style nationalist, is reportedly getting her own show soon. Fox doesn’t lack Bannon-style voices right now, at least in the evening. It lacks conservative voices. If the Murdochs are prepared to jettison the populists on staff and go all in on a center-right network, it’s strange that they would have only recently promoted Tucker to 8 p.m. and would be looking at Ingraham for a new program. Either they’re going to grudgingly stick with nationalism among their A-list broadcasters knowing that that’s where the money is among grassroots righties or they’re anticipating this challenge from Bannon and looking to outflank him by lining up populist hosts themselves.
Question, though: Vanity Fair claims Bannon believes Kushner nudged Rupert Murdoch to lobby for Bannon’s firing, with Murdoch fearing that Bannon would persuade Trump not to block Sinclair’s impending takeover of Tribune Media. That seems … short-sighted of Murdoch. Whether Bannon is inside or outside the White House, he and his allies will still be lobbying Trump and rallying the right-wing base to let the acquisition go through, knowing that the Sinclair-Tribune entity could provide a soapbox for them and, by extension, for Trump. I assume Trump will let it happen — and then Murdoch will have to cope with having made an enemy of Bannon to no end. The shrewd thing for Murdoch to have done, it seems to me, would have been to side with Bannon against Kushner and try to coopt Bannon, which would have neutralized the threat to Fox from the populist right and maybe given Murdoch an important ally inside the White House in blocking the Sinclair takeover after all. As it is, the hostility from Fox only gives Bannon that much more reason to promote Sinclair.
Here’s Joe Scarborough marveling at the opportunity right now for a populist right-wing news network. Exit question via Rich Lowry: With Bannon gone, who exactly is the president’s chief political strategist at this point? Is it … Jared?