President Donald Trump refused to defend Stephen Bannon when asked in an interview with the New York Post whether or not he still had “confidence” in his chief strategist.
“When I asked the President Tuesday afternoon if he still has confidence in Bannon, who took over the campaign in mid-August, I did not get a definitive yes,” reported Michael Goodwin of the New York Post on Tuesday night.
“Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”
But Trump’s response appeared to be far more than “not … a definitive yes.” For many, it appeared to be a definitive indication that Trump is preparing to jettison the figure many populist-conservatives see as the keeper of Trump’s “America First” ideology.
Trump began by downplaying Bannon’s role in his campaign. “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump told Goodwin.
“I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary,” Trump claimed.
“He ended by saying, ‘Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will,'” wrote Goodwin. Trump was likely referring to a highly publicized dispute running between Bannon and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Bannon and Kushner are seen as respectively representing the populist and globalist camps within the White House and are said to be in constant conflict over policy.
Last week the Daily Beast reported that anonymous White House sources claimed the two were fighting “nonstop” — and often “face-to-face.” Sources quoted in the report also claimed Bannon is so frustrated he has taken to calling Kushner a globalist and a “cuck” behind his back.
Indeed, the New York Times also reported last week that compromise seems impossible at this point and that discussions between the two Trump advisors “had deteriorated to the point of breakdown.”
“Here’s the reason there’s no middle ground,” Bannon “growled” to Kushner’s face, according to the Times. “You’re a Democrat.”
Unfortunately for Bannon’s supporters and those who wish Trump the populist, nationalist policies on which he campaigned, Trump’s comments suggest that if Bannon and Kushner can’t reach some sort of peace, it will be Bannon who finds himself locked outside of the White House gates.