Trump suspects Bannon of leaking, putting job in jeopardy
Lazaro Gamio / Axios
President Trump has told close associates that he believes Steve Bannon is behind damaging leaks about White House colleagues, putting the chief strategist’s job in fresh jeopardy, sources close to the president tell me.
Trump has told associates he’s fed up with what he sees as self-promotion by Bannon, who did not join the core team this week at the president’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
Bannon’s time with Trump has diminished since the new chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, took over and imposed discipline on the circus around the Oval Office.
Bannon declined to comment.
Why it matters: POTUS has been frustrated with Bannon in the past, but he never had as easy a vehicle for getting rid of him. Kelly is expected to make West Wing changes, anyway. As one top aide said: “Kelly can do the dirty work.”
Now Bannon is a man on an island, with very few true allies in the building.
Some caveats: Trump’s anger with Bannon is nothing new, and Bannon survived Jared Kushner’s attempt to get rid of him early in the administration. It’s always perilous to say Trump is going to oust anybody.
How Bannon ran afoul of Trump:
Key West Wing colleagues believe Bannon is an instigator of leaks targeting National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The stories have been driven by Breitbart News, where Bannon was executive chairman before joining Trump’s presidential campaign as chief executive in August. On Thursday, Trump backed McMaster as “our friend.”
Sources close to Trump say he was irritated about Bannon’s extensive cooperation with a book by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Josh Green, “Devil’s Bargain,” with a cover that gave Bannon equal billing with Trump.
This was a rerun of one of the key factors that put the chief strategist in Trump’s doghouse months ago: a TIME magazine cover dubbing Bannon “THE GREAT MANIPULATOR.”
In a New York Post interview in April, Trump refused to definitively back Bannon, and declared himself “my own strategist.” After that, Bannon lowered his profile, then temporarily redeemed himself as he helped organize the White House response to Robert Mueller.
Now, Kelly has changed the dynamic:
He’s a chain-of-command military guy who was initially mystified, and then horrified, when he learned about the relentless campaign against McMaster, coming from Breitbart and others.
When Reince Priebus was chief of staff and facing his own problems, Trump didn’t have an easy vehicle to evict Bannon from the White House. Priebus and Bannon became allies of convenience in a war against Jared and Ivanka (or “Javanka” as Bannon calls them to associates.)
Bannon has told associates he has nothing to do with the campaign against McMaster — that it’s a spontaneous effort by the base.
A source familiar with the president’s thinking said Trump didn’t believe that Bannon was some kind of puppeteer in charge of conservative media. “That would be overstating Steve’s influence,” the source said.
But the source wondered why Bannon hasn’t raised a finger to stop the hit pieces against McMaster that have run on Breitbart, a publication he used to run. The source pointed out that when the media began reporting, early in the administration, that Bannon was warring with Reince, the two went to extraordinary lengths to prove their friendship, and Bannon went to extraordinary lengths to shut down the narrative.
Be smart: The best card Bannon has to play is that he’s an important voice inside the building, and a key channel to Trump’s populist nationalist base.
Bannon is more aligned philosophically with the President than many of Trump’s other senior aides. Bannon has been on the winning side of a number of internal policy battles, including Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and the new aggressive turn against China on trade. On Monday, Trump returns to D.C. to announce he’s signing a memo to investigate China for intellectual property theft and other trade abuses against the U.S. Bannon has been pushing hard behind that policy.
Bannon has a genuine, deeply-felt policy disagreement with McMaster. Bannon’s and McMaster’s world views are diametrically opposed, and Bannon believes the globalists pose the greatest internal threat to the Trump presidency, and could send it veering off course with foreign interventions.
Other questions circulating the West Wing:
How would two Republican mega-donors, Bob and Rebekah Mercer, react if Kelly were to fire Bannon on Trump’s behalf? Given the financial support they’ve given to Bannon and Breitbart, would they turn against Trump, whom they’ve also supported?
How will Trump’s base react to Bannon’s firing?
What kind of havoc could Bannon wreak on the outside, unencumbered by his West Wing responsibilities?
Jonathan Swan 5 hrs ago
Trump’s plan for cracking down on trade with China
Saul Loeb / AP
As Axios scooped 11 days ago, President Trump will finally replace his blustery talk with the beginnings of real action against China. On Monday, Trump will initiate a U.S. government process to crack down on Beijing for stealing American intellectual property and forcing U.S. companies to hand over their technology as a cost of doing business in China.
Context: The White House had originally planned to rollout this trade investigation two Fridays ago, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson convinced senior officials to delay the action because America was on the brink of persuading China to sign on to a new U.N. sanctions resolution against North Korea. (China signed onto the sanctions resolution, and Trump now appears to feel emboldened to poke Beijing, even as North Korea veers closer to a military confrontation.)
Keep reading 338 WORDS
Alexi McCammond 1 hr ago
Trump blames “many sides” for violence in Charlottesville
Steve Helber / AP
President Trump addressed the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, today: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
Why it matters: By addressing the “many sides” of this protest (which was organized by white nationalists upset with the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue), Trump failed to distinguish between those demonstrating in support of white supremacy and those who showed up in opposition to it.
Former KKK leader and Trump supporter David Duke said the protest was “a turning point” and that white supremacists will “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” Denouncing white supremacy in his remarks, or simply not blaming “all sides,” would have allowed him to address this issue and set the record straight.
When asked by various reporters what Trump meant by on many sides, the White House responded: “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protestors and counter protestors.”
Keep reading 13 WORDS
Axios 3 hrs ago
Hillary Clinton denounces white supremacists in Charlottesville
Win McNamee / AP
Hillary Clinton condemned the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, today via Twitter and denounced white supremacy, saying “the incitement of hatred that got us here is as real and condemnable as the white supremacists in our streets.” She also tweeted:
“My heart is in Charlottesville today, and with everyone made to feel unsafe in their country.”
“Every minute we allow this to persist through tacit encouragement or inaction is a disgrace, & corrosive to our values.”
“Now is the time for leaders to be strong in their words & deliberate in their actions.”
“We will not step backward. If this is not who we are as Americans, let’s prove it.”
Axios 4 hrs ago
Trump calls for “swift restoration of law and order” in Charlottesville
President Trump delivered remarks from Bedminster, New Jersey, on the white nationalist protest happening in Charlottesville, Virginia, calling for “a swift restoration of law and order.” One person has reportedly died at today’s rally after being struck by a car that plowed into marching protesters, with many more injured. Trump quotes:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides… We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and true affection for each other.”
“It’s been going on for a long time in our country… not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, it’s been going on for a long time. It has no place in America.”
“I want to salute the great work of the state and local police in Virginia … the National Guard has been working smart and working hard, they’ve been doing a terrific job.”
More quotes 160 WORDS
Axios 5 hrs ago
Car plows into crowd at alt-rigJustht rally
Steve Helber / AP
A car plowed through a crowd of counter protestors at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this afternoon, multiple videos from the scene show.
Information is still being released. Various photos from the scene posted online showed numerous protestors bloodied and being carried away on stretchers. It’s unclear who was driving the car, but state officials say he is in custody. AP reports local hospital officials say at least one person is dead and 19 injured from the car attack. Various arrests have taken place as well, including Richard Spencer. A helicopter that crashed in the early evening, which killed two people, was linked to the protests, per AP.
For updates from the scene, follow photojournalist Alejandro Alvarez for images and videos, the official Twitter Moments collection, and Virginia State Police.
Alexi McCammond 5 hrs ago
Mueller wants to interview Reince Priebus
Special Counsel Bob Mueller wants to talk to Reince Priebus, NYT reports.
This suggests the investigation just got even closer to Trump’s White House, as Muller is reportedly in talks with the West Wing to interview current and former administration officials, like Priebus.
Why it matters: Interviewing West Wing officials who have worked closely with POTUS moves Mueller’s investigation even closer to Trump, which will likely be distracting for him as he will soon refocus on passing legislation (like tax reform) through Congress.
Mueller wants to talk to these officials to gather information on why Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, and about various specific meetings they’ve held, including any transcripts or notes from those meetings.
Axios 6 hrs ago
How the GOP responded to the alt-right rally in Virginia
A group of white nationalists protested in Charlottesville, Virginia, last night and this morning after news that the city will remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. The protests turned violent as white nationalists clashed with anti-racism counter protestors who showed up to demonstrate this morning.
President Trump tweeted: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” He added: “Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!”
House Speaker Paul Ryan: “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.”
First Lady Melania Trump: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence. #Charlottesville”
VP Mike Pence: “I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us. #Charlottesville”
Axios 7 hrs ago
Virginia state of emergency declared after alt-right rally
Steve Helber / AP
White nationalists protested last night and continued this morning at the University of Virginia. They’re protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park. After things turned violent this morning (protestors and counter protestors clashed), Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
What that means: Local officials can request more resources from the government to help them regain control of the protest in Virginia.
Update: A car plowed into a crowd of protestors this afternoon, AP reported. Various videos and images from the scene posted online showed ambulances rushing to the scene and injured protestors being carried away on stretchers.
Stef W. Kight 9 hrs ago
Counter protestors attend “Unite the Right” rally
WTAE-TV Pittsburgh / Twitter
Alt-right activists protested the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from what is now called Emancipation park in Charlottesville, Virginia today. White activist Jason Kessler organized the Unite the Right rally, and Richard Spencer and Tim Gionet are attending.
Last night, hundreds of alt-right supporters marched onto the lawn of the University of Virginia, bearing torches and chanting “white lives matter” and “you will not replace us.”
The main Unite the Right event took place this morning. Anti-fascist and Black Lives Matter activists among other anti-fascist and anti-racist groups held counter protests during the rally. Kessler has encouraged protestors to avoid violence, but to prepare to defend themselves.
Keep reading 327 WORDS
Mike Allen 10 hrs ago
Trump on the brink
Evan Vucci / AP
On Thursday — after “fire and fury” was followed by a double-down, then by signs of a pullback — a top Republican who calls pretty honest balls and strikes on this White House emailed me:
“The President’s policy path on North Korea is clear and unambiguous: disarm or die. His rhetoric may not appeal to the haute foreign policy arbiters. But it resonates with the South, the Japanese and, most importantly, the Chinese.”
By last night, after “locked and loaded,” the same person said: “Tone seems to be moving from tough to shrill. … He muddled his own message.”
Keep reading 197 WORDS
Axios 12 hrs ago
China to Trump, North Korea: please use “restraint”
AP / Luis Hidalgo
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping talked on the phone last night on the North Korea crisis:
The White House email release on the call: “The leaders affirmed that the recent adoption of a new United Nations Security Council resolution regarding North Korea was an important and necessary step toward achieving peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump and President Xi agreed North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior. The Presidents also reiterated their mutual commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
How Chinese state media is reporting the call, via WaPo: “Xi said China hoped the parties concerned would exercise restraint and refrain from taking any action that will aggravate tensions on the peninsula … Dialogue, negotiations and a political settlement are the fundamental ways of solving the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear issue, Xi said … Xi ‘stressed that China and the U.S. share the same interests on the denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula…'”