Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Click here to sign up for our 'Daily Buzz on Florida Politics' newsletter

Get the day's five most important links in Florida politics in an email from the Tampa Bay Times' political team sent at 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.


President Trump undercuts Steve Bannon, whose job may be in danger

WASHINGTON — Stephen K. Bannon, President Donald Trump's grenade-lobbing pugilist of a chief strategist, has a fitting nickname for his West Wing office: "The war room."

But more and more, war is being waged on Bannon himself. And it is unclear how much longer he can survive in his job.

His isolation inside the White House, after weeks of bitter battle with other senior aides aligned with Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, appeared to grow even starker this week after Trump undercut Bannon in an interview and downplayed his role as the Trump campaign's chief executive.

"I didn't know Steve," Trump told the New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin in an interview on Tuesday, explaining that Bannon was a latecomer to his presidential campaign. "I am my own strategist," the president added, a pointed reference to what aides described as his growing irritation that Bannon is receiving credit for being the mastermind behind Trump's victory.

The remarks were at least, in part, not true — Trump has known Bannon for some time, and has appeared on the radio show he used to host. But it was an unusually public rejection by a chief executive who generally keeps such criticism behind closed doors.

RELATED COVERAGE: Long before Trump hired him, Steve Bannon was making deals and kindling political fires in Florida

According to the New York Times, one person with firsthand knowledge of internal White House dynamics insisted that no immediate changes were likely. The Times said the source asked not to be identified given how tense the situation had become, But by openly criticizing Bannon, Trump has created a situation that makes it hard for the swaggering chief strategist to remain in place without appearing deeply undermined.

Allies of Trump say that he has become more impatient with the infighting — and the overwhelming attention it is receiving in the media. In a lengthy conversation with Bannon this week, the president repeated his admonition that the chief strategist and his adversaries needed to "knock off" their back-and-forth sniping.

Trump insisted as much in the Post interview, saying, "Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will." His comments in private, say people who have spoken with him, have been more pointed.

Doug Mills | New York Times

Stephen Bannon, right, then a senior strategist for President-elect Donald Trump, and Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, arrive in Indianapolis for a campaign rally, on Dec. 1, 2016. President Trump said on Tuesday that Bannon was not the chief strategist of his surprising campaign victory, distancing himself from the contentious adviser who is increasingly isolated in the White House.

Bannon appears to now recognize the peril of his situation and has kept a low profile inside the White House while Kushner has been away with his family. He has told friends and associates, using his trademark military vernacular, that he understands he cannot throw bombs every day and needs to pick his battles carefully.

He had told several associates over the weekend that he believed that things had cooled off with Kushner. But the comments from the president suggested the truce is uneasy, and might not last.

Bannon's allies have already begun discussing a post-White House future for him. Last Friday, Bannon's main political patron, the financier Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of Robert Mercer, a major Trump donor, holed up in her office at Cambridge Analytica in New York, discussing possibilities for Bannon should he leave, the New York Times reports, citing two people briefed on the meeting. Bannon served on the board of the data-mining firm until last summer.

The split between the hard-nosed Bannon and the far more reserved and soft-spoken Kushner has evolved into much more than a personality clash.

Fairly or not, Bannon, in the eyes of the president, has become tainted with the new administration's major losses: the controversial travel ban and the failed effort to pass an Affordable Care Act replacement. He was heavily involved in overseeing the drafting of the travel ban order. He played a limited role in the health care negotiations with congressional leaders, but joined them at critical moments, taking a hard-line approach.

Given Bannon's nature, he has objected to the advice of others inside the administration. Those include not only Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, Trump's daughter, but other advisers who share a similar, more moderate mind-set like Gary Cohn, the chief economic adviser, and Dina Powell, a deputy national security adviser, most of whom believe the president should ease up on some of his hard-line campaign promises.

Because of all the setbacks his administration has suffered even before it reaches its symbolic 100-day mark, Trump may be discovering the need to return to his deal-making roots to navigate the presidency instead of his drain-the-swamp instincts that Bannon feeds, the New York Times reports, citing people who spoke with the president and did not want to violate his confidence.

Bannon became involved in politics around the beginning of the Obama administration, when the tea party emerged as a force, and he was running the hard-right Breitbart News website. Then he joined Trump's campaign, making the adjustment from outside agitator to someone entrusted with helping run the government — a transition that has apparently been difficult.

Bannon's removal from the White House would not come without political consequences, given his stature on the right. Conservative talk radio has already been abuzz with worry that "the Democrats," the epithet they use to describe the Kushner faction in the West Wing, were co-opting the president's agenda.

Still, Kushner has some powerful allies inside the White House. The person with perhaps the most powerful voice — Ivanka Trump — has also soured on Bannon, several people familiar with her thinking have said, according to the New York Times.

President Trump undercuts Steve Bannon, whose job may be in danger 04/12/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 12, 2017 4:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
 file photo]

  2. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  3. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended


    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Harford County, Md., Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler shows a picture of Radee Labeeb Prince, the suspect in the workplace shootings.
  4. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  5. The two Ricks tangle at what may be final debate


    ST. PETERSBURG — In what was likely the last mayoral forum before the Nov. 7 election, Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker started out small, discussing neighborhood issues like recycling and neighborhood funding. They ended tangling over familiar subjects: the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, sewage …

    Ex-Mayor Rick Baker, left, and Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, debated familiar topics. The Times’ Adam Smith moderated.