During a free-wheeling press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Trump Tower, President Donald Trump declined to say whether he has confidence in his controversial chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who has long feuded with other top Trump advisers.
“Do you still have confidence in Steve?” a reporter asked.
“Well, we’ll see — look, look, I like Mr. Bannon, he’s a friend of mine,” Trump said. “But Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that, I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that.”
The president called Bannon, “a good man” and blamed the media for portraying him “unfairly.” Bannon, an outspoken nationalist who formerly ran the right-wing media site Breitbart News, which he has called “a platform for the alt-right,” has long been accused of promoting racist ideology.
“I like him, he’s a good man, he is not a racist, I can tell you that,” Trump said of Bannon. “He’s a good person and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.”
Trump said he “never spoke” with Bannon about the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, countering reports that Bannon had repeatedly counseled the president on his controversial response to the events.
The New York Times reported that Trump has for several months considered firing Bannon, whom many of Trump’s current and former aides say feuds with staffers and leaks negative stories about aides he disagrees with, including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster. He is also reportedly butting heads with Trump’s new chief of staff, John Kelly.
Most recently, the ousted White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, told The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza in an obscenity-laced rant that Bannon was trying to “build [his] own brand off of the f–king strength of the President.” On CBS’ “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Monday, Scaramucci, who was fired shortly after his conversation with Lizza, repeated his claim that Bannon is “a leaker.”
“If it was up to me, he would be gone,” he said. “But it’s not up to me.”
The Times has also reported that Trump was annoyed with the Time magazine cover story about Bannon, which portrayed his adviser as the intellectual mastermind behind Trump’s election. The president’s comments on Tuesday asserting that Bannon joined the campaign after he had already found electoral success seems to reflect this sentiment.
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