President Trump has told close associates that he believes Steve Bannon is behind damaging leaks about White House colleagues, putting the chief strategist’s job in fresh jeopardy, sources close to the president tell me.
- Trump has told associates he’s fed up with what he sees as self-promotion by Bannon, who did not join the core team this week at the president’s golf club in Bedminster, N.J.
- Bannon’s time with Trump has diminished since the new chief of staff, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, took over and imposed discipline on the circus around the Oval Office.
- Bannon declined to comment.
- Why it matters: POTUS has been frustrated with Bannon in the past, but he never had as easy a vehicle for getting rid of him. Kelly is expected to make West Wing changes, anyway. As one top aide said: “Kelly can do the dirty work.”
- Now Bannon is a man on an island, with very few true allies in the building.
- Some caveats: Trump’s anger with Bannon is nothing new, and Bannon survived Jared Kushner’s attempt to get rid of him early in the administration. It’s always perilous to say Trump is going to oust anybody.
How Bannon ran afoul of Trump:
- Key West Wing colleagues believe Bannon is an instigator of leaks targeting National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. The stories have been driven by Breitbart News, where Bannon was executive chairman before joining Trump’s presidential campaign as chief executive in August. On Thursday, Trump backed McMaster as “our friend.”
- Sources close to Trump say he was irritated about Bannon’s extensive cooperation with a book by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Josh Green, “Devil’s Bargain,” with a cover that gave Bannon equal billing with Trump.
- This was a rerun of one of the key factors that put the chief strategist in Trump’s doghouse months ago: a TIME magazine cover dubbing Bannon “THE GREAT MANIPULATOR.”
- In a New York Post interview in April, Trump refused to definitively back Bannon, and declared himself “my own strategist.” After that, Bannon lowered his profile, then temporarily redeemed himself as he helped organize the White House response to Robert Mueller.
SOURCE: Jonathan Swan