As you probably know, Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council yesterday, and the Trump administration attempted to make it look like this was the plan all along rather than making it seem like it was a sign of Bannon’s potentially waning power. From Bloomberg:
A White House official portrayed the change as a natural progression rather than a demotion for Bannon. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, contended that Bannon was placed on the committee in part to monitor Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and never attended a meeting. He’s no longer needed with McMaster in charge of the council, the official said.
Other outlets have reported that although it was Trump who ultimately made the decision, he was pressured into doing so by H.R. McMaster, who thought Bannon’s presence on the council was a nuisance and a risk. Earlier today Trump appointed Rick Perry in Bannon’s stead, and again there was the attempt to make it appear as though this was business as usual:
President Donald Trump has added Energy secretary and former Texas governor Rick Perry to the National Security Council after removing Steve Bannon from his role.
Bannon had been given the authority to participate in National Security Council Principals Committee meetings after Trump signed an executive memorandum in January. At the time, some experts called the move an unprecedented political appointment to the panel.
Bannon, a former Breitbart News executive, had no objections to his removal, a source familiar with the decision told ABC News.
But because the White House leaks like a sieve, we’ve learned that maybe Bannon wasn’t quite ready to go quietly into that good night:
It has now been reported the former Breitbart publisher threatened to quit the administration as he fought to retain the role.
The New York Times said Mr Bannon’s allies denied he threatened to leave, and sought instead to portray the move as a natural evolution as the government settled in.
And then there’s this lovely little anecdote:
Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon has called the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner a “cuck” and a “globalist” during a time of high tension between the two top aides, several Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast.
The fighting between Kushner and Bannon has been “nonstop” in recent weeks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. It’s been an “open secret” that Bannon and Kushner often clash “face-to-face,” according to senior officials.
One official said Bannon has lately complained about Kushner trying to “shiv him and push him out the door” and likened him to a fifth column in the White House.
“[Steve] recently vented to us about Jared being a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’…He actually said ‘cuck,’ as in “cuckservative,’” the administration official told The Daily Beast.
It’s never been easy to tell which stories from inside the White House are accurate and which ones are not, though regardless of which one of these accounts is correct is irrelevant, because it nevertheless signals that there’s chaos between warring factions within the White House. If Bannon really did have no problem being removed from the NSC, then someone (probably in Kushner’s corner) is trying to make him look bad. If the good sport story is bogus, then the story of Bannon calling Kushner a cuck is meant to portray Kushner as a power-grabber.
That McMaster wanted Bannon off the NSC is believable enough to me—and the reports that Bannon is furious about it make sense, too. Trump has always trusted his children more than anyone else, and Bannon as Trump’s right-hand man hasn’t worked out too well so far. The Muslim ban executive orders have been held up by the courts, and the big infrastructure spending that Bannon purported to want seems increasingly unlikely since the Republican-controlled House hasn’t even been able to repeal Obamacare—something they did dozens of times when Obama was president. Yeah, good luck getting the Freedom Caucus to sign off on a spending spree.
It also lines up with Kushner’s increasing influence with Trump. He’s one of Trump’s top advisers on China, and tried and failed to be a diplomat in the Middle East. It’s pretty likely Trump didn’t enjoy the way Bannon’s strongman routine was working out in practice rather than in theory as it did during the campaign. And Trump probably didn’t care too much for that Twitter hashtag #PresidentBannon, either.
Yesterday, Bannon’s old stomping grounds, Breitbart, also attempted to make it seem like he was on the NSC in order to undo whatever right-wingers think Susan Rice did while she was there. I’d keep my eye on their front page—if Bannon really is pissed and wants to make it known, you can expect an anti-Kushner headline or two fairly soon.
Guess I wasn’t far off: