President Trump may yet find that the biggest threat to his presidency isn’t the Democrats, NeverTrump, or even the media.
The biggest threat may be his own ego, and those he kept around for as long as they were useful, then discarded. Trump built his campaign, then the opening months of his presidency on the backs of eager, and equally ambitious loyalists, then, one-by-one, he jettisoned them back into the real world.
Just as the GOP is living the slow-motion horror of having accepted Donald Trump as a legitimate candidate and are now forced to stand by and watch him take a sledge hammer to the party’s viability, Trump will realize he’s not immune to the chaos, either.
As we speak, Steve Bannon and Breitbart are plotting to dismantle the Trump presidency, targeting enemies within the administration, and doing it with the added advantage of having been an insider.
Those on Bannon’s hit list: H.R. McMaster, Dina Powell, and the “New York Democrat globalists” – former Goldman Sachs president, Gary Cohen, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump (or “Javanka,” as Bannon calls them).
According to Vanity Fair, Bannon nor Breitbart are shy about letting people know they’re at war with Trump’s White House.
The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there’s a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner’s political instincts highly questionable. “He said Jared is a dope,” one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost. But Bannon, who was the only West Wing advisor to publicly support the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, is especially galled at being scapegoated as an anti-Semite in its wake. “It’s one of the attacks he takes most personally because it’s not true,” a Breitbart staffer told me. Bannon’s allies lay out a more complicated backstory. Bannon, they say, lobbied Trump aggressively to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but was blocked by Kushner. And, according to three Bannon allies, Bannon pushed a tougher line against the Palestinians than Kushner did. In May, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the White House, Bannon stayed home. “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist,” Bannon texted a friend.
There have also been competing accusations as to who was behind the leaks within the White House. Bannon accused Jared Kushner, who had cultivated a relationship with Matt Drudge, of the Drudge Report.
There have been some reports of Drudge frequently visiting the White House, and his site has ran several hard headlines against Bannon.
Also, in a private dinner, Fox News Chairman Rupert Murdoch joined Kushner and Trump. Murdoch encouraged Trump to fire Bannon, miffed because of rumors of a Breitbart media venture with Sinclair Broadcasting, that he felt would challenge Fox News.
Bannon has allegedly consulted with Robert Mercer, the billionaire backer of Breitbart, and discussed the possibility of taking Breitbart to television. They’ve even discussed snatching up former Fox personality, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity.
Get rid of Hannity and I might actually watch Fox News again. Maybe.
Meanwhile, the next phase has already begun. On Sunday, the website’s lead story was based on a Daily Mail report that said Ivanka was behind Bannon’s removal. “Trump’s daughter Ivanka pushed out Bannon because of his ‘far-right views’ clashing with her Jewish faith,” the article noted. Another piece was headlined: “6 TIMES JAVANKA’S DISPLEASURE WITH POTUS LEAKED TO PRESS.” In his feud with Kushner, Bannon may have a powerful ally: Reince Priebus, also recently departed from the White House with a quiver of grudges. Recently, according to several sources, Bannon has told friends he wants Priebus to give his account of the James Comey firing to special prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to a source close to Priebus, the former chief of staff believes that the decision was made during an early May weekend in Bedminster, where Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Stephen Miller were with the president. Trump returned to the Oval Office on Monday, May 8 and told other aides he intended to fire Comey.
That would be an interesting turn, indeed.
Priebus laid anything he had that might have passed for dignity at one point, on the altar of Trump, and he was treated like garbage. It wouldn’t be the first time unrequited love turned to bitterness. Hell hath no fury like a toady scorned.
And speaking of Hell’s fury:
At Breitbart, Bannon has a brigade of similarly happy warriors. “We’re in a loud bar celebrating the return of our captain!” Breitbart’s Washington editor Matt Boyle told me on Friday night. Breitbart’s defense of Trump has so far helped keep the Russia scandal from gaining traction on the right. But that could swiftly change if Trump, under the influence of Kushner and Cohn, deviates too far from the positions he ran on. If that happens, said one high-level Breitbart staffer, “We’re prepared to help Paul Ryan rally votes for impeachment.”
Now it becomes a case of loyalties. Were the MAGA crowd loyal to Trump, or were they really Bannon’s crew of alt-right marauders?