In his first interview shortly after the White House announced that it was parting ways with Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon told the Weekly Standard on Friday afternoon that “the Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over.” After confirming his departure Bannon said that “we still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”
In his interview with the conservative publication, Bannon predicted that in the wake of his departure, Trump’s administration would “be much more conventional” as his absence from the White House would make it “much harder” for Trump to pave a way forward on issues like “economic nationalism and immigration.” He also predicted that republicans would “moderate” Trump:
“I think they’re going to try to moderate him,” he says. “I think he’ll sign a clean debt ceiling, I think you’ll see all this stuff. His natural tendency—and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville—his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected. I think you’re going to see a lot of constraints on that. I think it’ll be much more conventional.”
In Bannon’s view, his departure is not a defeat for him personally but for the ideology he’d urged upon the president, as reflected in Trump’s provocative inaugural address in which he spoke of self-dealing Washington politicians, and their policies that led to the shuttered factories and broken lives of what he called “American carnage.” Bannon co-authored that speech (and privately complained that it had been toned down by West Wing moderates like Ivanka and Jared).
“Now, it’s gonna be Trump,” Bannon said. “The path forward on things like economic nationalism and immigration, and his ability to kind of move freely . . . I just think his ability to get anything done—particularly the bigger things, like the wall, the bigger, broader things that we fought for, it’s just gonna be that much harder.”
He also warned that things are about to get worse for Trump as even more people depart his side, warning of a ‘jailbreak’ of moderate Republicans.
“There’s about to be a jailbreak of these moderate guys on the Hill”—a stream of Republican dissent, which could become a flood. Bannon also said that he once confidently believed in the prospect of success for that version of the Trump presidency he now says is over.
Asked what the turning point was, he says, “It’s the Republican establishment. The Republican establishment has no interest in Trump’s success on this. They’re not populists, they’re not nationalists, they had no interest in his program. Zero. It was a half-hearted attempt at Obamacare reform, it was no interest really on the infrastructure, they’ll do a very standard Republican version of taxes.
“What Trump ran on- border wall, where is the funding for the border wall, one of his central tenets, where have they been? Have they rallied around the Perdue-Cotton immigration bill? On what element of Trump’s program, besides tax cuts-which is going to be the standard marginal tax cut-where have they rallied to Trump’s cause? They haven’t.”
As for what happens next, as reported late on Friday, Bannon said that he is eager to get back to Breitbart and lead the opposition from there.
“Now I’m free. I’ve got my hands back on my weapons,” he said. “Someone said, ‘it’s Bannon the Barbarian.’ I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There’s no doubt. I built a f-cking machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”
Specifically, the target of his attacks will be the ‘globalists’ and liberals he believes have taken over the White House. They include National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, advisor Gary Cohn, Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
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With Bannon’s departure conceding control of Trump’s inner circle to the so-called “Goldman globalists”, the question is how Trump’s message will evolve in the coming days with the “nationalist” element purged. With Trump having been granted the option of sounding like a more centrist President, will he continue with his usual rhetoric. Bloomberg is convinced that the answer is “more of the same” especially since Trump won’t risk losing his core base, although that may no longer be in his control, especially if Bannon is about to unleash a stinging attack on Trump’s inner circle.
For the clearest sign of what Trump’s post-Bannon posture – and administration – will look like, look no further than the coming debt ceiling negotiation (and/or crisis): on Friday, Goldman raised its odds of a government shutdown to 50%, a fact which also spooked the market sending the S&P to session lows at the close. If Trump is unable to build some political goodwill in the coming days on the back of the Bannon departure, those odds will steadily grow to 100% over the next few weeks.
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