You would assume this is true even if you didn’t already know for a fact that it’s true. Still, I can’t get over the sheer scale of Bannon’s unpopularity right now, not just among the country writ large but among his own base.
This is a guy who helped Trump get elected. Who promoted him day in, day out, in state-media-ish terms on Breitbart. Who went to work for him in the White House as his chief strategist. And who then hit the trail to try to expand the Trump revolution to the Senate by promoting longshot populist candidates. There’s no one in the United States right now, not even Trump, who’s a more prominent advocate for nationalism than Steve Bannon. Trump has nationalist *instincts*, but as we’ve seen with his immigration dithering, he’s not ideologically committed to any policy. Bannon is.
Taking all of that into account, you might expect right-wing populists to be somewhat neutral in the Trump/Bannon feud. Sure, Bannon crossed the line by chattering to Michael Wolff but even his “Fire & Fury” quotes largely steer clear of criticizing Trump himself. The harshest thing he’s said about POTUS is that Don Jr and Kushner must have relayed the details of their meeting with the Russian lawyer in summer 2016 to the candidate himself. Even if you’re peeved at Bannon for that, he’s still potentially a valuable asset in advancing your nationalist ideology.
But, apparently, it doesn’t matter. He crossed the president and now he’s ruined.
Among Donald Trump’s own voters, Bannon’s at 14/68. The same group splits 72/3(!) in believing that Trump’s decision to fire Bannon over the summer was the correct one and splits 50/3 when asked if Bannon’s departure was good or bad for the country. Those are arresting results given populist angst at the time that Bannon leaving Trump’s orbit would mean the president would be vulnerable to being influenced by “globalists.”
The icing on the cake: When asked whose criticisms of the other they agree with more, Trump voters split 66/1 in favor of Trump. Sixty-six to one. Despite all of Bannon’s hard work to advance populism and despite the fact that his criticism of Don Jr and Jared Kushner, while hyperbolic, accurately described their meeting with Russian lawyer as inappropriate, the guy essentially polls an asterisk when head to head with Trump among the right. Amazing.
Oh, and as for Bannon’s standing among Breitbart fans specifically? He’s a bit stronger there, but only a bit. Regular readers of the site he made famous as a tribune of the populist right now view him favorably at a clip of 28/51:
No wonder Breitbart dumped him. How could they afford to keep him and keep promoting him with front-page stories about his latest exploits?
Trump can (and eventually will) make nice with Bannon again and restore him to good standing in populist polite society but he really might be done as a major political force. He’ll never be as trusted and popular among Trump’s base as he was before, even if he and POTUS rekindle their friendship. He probably won’t ever have the juice again to play kingmaker in Senate primaries for populist candidates, assuming he had it before the falling out with Trump. What an irony it would be if Bannon’s efforts to install Trump allies in the Senate blew up because Trump simply couldn’t lay down his personal grudge against him.
The only thing that could reduce Bannon’s stature further on the right would be him giving damaging testimony in the Russiagate probe, which is now a realistic possibility. Here’s a fascinating detail via Fox News about Bannon’s appearance before the House Intelligence Committee today:
Sources say Bannon told by WH not to answer questions before House Intel Cmte about the White House and the transition. Did not assert executive privilege. Committee subpoenas him during the meeting to comply while in the hearing.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 16, 2018
Meanwhile, I’ve seen various theories from lawyers kicked around today for why Mueller finally decided to issue a grand jury subpoena to Bannon instead of inviting him in for an interview, as he’s done with so many other Trump administration officials past and present. Ken White thinks the timing of the subpoena suggests that Bannon isn’t a target of the investigation, that he’s being called in to tell what he knows about people who are. He also reasons that it may be a ploy by Mueller, with an informal interview likely to occur instead since Mueller’s taken none of the other obvious preceding steps a prosecutor would normally take before subpoenaing someone. Renato Mariotti, however, is less convinced that it’s a bluff and believes Mueller might have a good reason to get Bannon into a courtroom before a grand jury. Namely, Bannon’s lawyer can’t come with him.
6/ No one is allowed in the grand jury room other than the witness, the prosecutors, the grand jurors, and the court reporter. Also, the fact that there is a court reporter makes it easier for the prosecutor to charge the witness with making a false statement.
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) January 16, 2018
Why would Mueller worry about Bannon’s lawyer being present during an interview? Because, says Mariotti, Bannon’s retained the same attorney as Reince Preibus and White House counsel Don McGahn; that attorney will know what Priebus and McGahn have already told Mueller’s team and could conceivably intervene if he’s present to help Bannon tailor his testimony so that it doesn’t conflict with theirs. By putting Bannon on the stand in court in front of the grand jury, Mueller avoids that possibility. There’s an obvious risk to going that route: As Michael Wolff could tell you, Bannon *loves* to talk. Put him on the stand and he’s sure to be guarded; make him more comfortable in an informal interview and he’s more likely to chatter at you. Presumably Mueller’s calculated that even if that were true and Bannon was foolishly inclined to be chatty, his lawyer would stop him. In which case the only thing to do is to separate the two by putting Bannon on the stand. We’ll see what happens. Depending on his testimony, a zero-percent favorable rating among Breitbart readers isn’t out of the question.