It hasn’t been a good week for Steve Bannon.
Trump’s embattled right-hand man has seen a slew of negative coverage over the last few days. That includes reports of widening rifts between Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, news that Trump is increasingly unhappy with Bannon, reports of looming staff shake-ups in the White House, and above all, the chief strategist’s removal from his post on the National Security Council.
Bannon, famous for his nationalistic politics and confrontational style, is in hot water as Kushner, economic adviser Gary Cohn, and other centrist forces in the West Wing have begun gaining influence in the president’s inner circle.
Bannon reportedly lashed out at the turn of events and called Kushner a “globalist” and a “cuck” — short for “cuckservative,” a mash-up of the words “cuckold” and “conservative” that’s frequently used as a slur by the alt-right — and had “face-to-face” clashes with the president’s son-in-law, senior administration officials told The Daily Beast.
Bannon has also been the subject of the president’s ire in more recent days. The New York Times reported that Trump is apparently unhappy with the way magazines and talk shows refer to his strategist as “President Bannon,” as well as the credit Bannon has received for setting the administration’s agenda.
He has also borne the brunt of the blame for the White House’s failed attempts at implementing a travel ban, as well as the disastrous rollout of the American Health Care Act, the bill Republicans championed as the replacement for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
The bill was pulled from the floor of the House before it could come to a vote, after it became clear the AHCA would not have enough votes to pass. The Freedom Caucus, a hardline conservative faction of the House of Representatives that some say were responsible for sinking the bill, was reportedly put off by Bannon’s dictatorial tone when he told them they had “no choice” but to vote for the AHCA.
On the travel ban, Trump was initially on board with Bannon’s drafting of the executive order, but grew incensed when it became clear the order would not withstand judicial scrutiny, a source familiar with the president’s thinking told The Associated Press.
Tensions reached their boiling point on Wednesday when Bannon was removed from his post on the National Security Council at the behest of national security adviser H.R. McMaster. According to a White House official, Bannon resisted the shake-up and threatened at one point to quit if it was carried out. “If my talents aren’t needed here, I can take them somewhere else,” Bannon reportedly said.
His allies, however, say that Bannon’s removal from the NSC was a natural next step, because he was placed there to keep an eye on former national security adviser Michael Flynn. With Flynn out of the picture, they said, there was no need for Bannon to remain on the council.
“Susan Rice operationalized the N.S.C. during the last administration,” Bannon said in a statement released after his removal. “I was put on the N.S.C. with General Flynn to ensure that it was de-operationalized. General McMaster has returned the N.S.C. to its proper function.”
Following the various blunders that have plagued this administration since its first day, Kushner and Ivanka Trump are pushing hard for a more “open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology,” according to an Axios report on Saturday.
And despite earlier reports that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus may be replaced, a senior official told Axios that Priebus is on board with administration’s centrist push and that “Reince is staying.”
In yet another sign of Bannon’s waning influence, sources told Axios that the administration may be shifting towards collaboration, as opposed to the combative stance it has adopted thus far.
Although Bannon’s allies are desperate to save his job in the White House — arguing that Bannon’s demotion will cost Trump dearly with his core constituency that has favoured his more nationalistic “America First” tone — other officials told Axios: “Either Steve becomes a team player and gets along with people, or he’ll be gone.”
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