But now Bannon is being primarily viewed inside the White House as a destructive force, and other senior advisers are trying to undermine him in the eyes of President Trump himself, according to multiple reports out this morning. Those reports undercut the narrative of Bannon as a Maestro of Disruption, and they also provide an occasion to probe the true nature of his self-ascribed economic nationalism.
Mr. Kushner … has said privately that he fears that Mr. Bannon plays to the president’s worst impulses, according to people with direct knowledge of such discussions.
Moreover, Mr. Bannon’s Svengali-style reputation has chafed on a president who sees himself as the West Wing’s only leading man. Several associates said the president had quietly expressed annoyance over the credit Mr. Bannon had received for setting the agenda — and Mr. Trump was not pleased by the “President Bannon” puppet-master theme promoted by magazines, late-night talk shows and Twitter.
In practice, Bannonite disruption is upstaging the president and being blamed for the failure of the immigration ban. Recall that allies of Bannon initially cast the ban as a masterful coup. A senior administration official (gosh, who could that be?) recently told Bloomberg that Bannon deliberately arranged the release of the first ban on a Friday so that opponents could stage massive weekend protests that would draw maximum attention. Wow, disruption! In reality, Bannon made a hash of it.
What’s more, Kushner now allegedly believes that Bannon — presumably his combative nationalism — is aggravating Trump’s worst impulses. Politico’s reporting indicates a similar dynamic, in which Kushner sees Bannon as an “ideologue whose advice to Trump is making it harder for the president to win popular support,” and an ally of Bannon sees the clash as one between the “nationalists and the West Wing Democrats.”
Bannon himself has talked a great game about his “economic nationalism,” which is supposed to distinguish him from both the squishy globalists inside the White House and the Ayn Randian limited government Paul Ryan Republicans in Congress. But what has it really amounted to so far?
When the health bill was tanking, allies of Bannon leaked that he saw an opportunity to undermine Ryan, whose bill, Bannon believed, was “written by the insurance industry,” suggesting Bannon and Trump secretly harbor more populist impulses than Ryan on health care. But where’s the evidence of this? The White House fully embraced Ryanism at an absolutely critical moment, throwing in with a plan that would have hurt many lower-income Trump voters and rolled back coverage for millions, violating Trump’s pledge of “insurance for everybody” and his vow not to cut Medicaid, while delivering a huge tax cut for the rich. If Bannon has an actual plan or even a vague vision for a health-care alternative to the Ryanism that he supposedly disdains, we haven’t seen it.
On taxes, Trump will forge ahead with a plan that delivers an enormous tax cut for the rich, and according to Robert Draper, Bannon may also be open to repeal of the estate tax. Populist! It’s possible we may see Bannon’s economic nationalism shape Trump’s coming agenda on infrastructure and trade. Bannon has vowed a massive public expenditure on infrastructure. But we still don’t know whether Trump’s actual plan will amount to much more than a tax break and privatization scheme. Perhaps Trump will get some species of border adjustment tax on imports. But we still don’t know whether Trump’s renegotiation of NAFTA will do anything to empower workers — and union leaders are skeptical based on what they’ve seen so far.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, what evidence is there that Bannon’s “economic nationalism” amounts to much more than the nativist nationalism we’ve seen — the travel ban, the immigration restrictionism, the wall on the Mexican border, and the support for assorted right-wing nationalist movements worldwide?
McConnell has tried to reassure his GOP colleagues that will not happen. He says that all presidential nominees will now be free of the filibuster hurdle, returning the chamber to its traditional role of voting them up or down. “There’s not a single Senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one,” he said.
Two sources did not believe the hearing, if scheduled, would have an immediate impact on the legislative calendar. Lawmakers are slated to leave town for a two-week Easter recess starting Thursday … discussions of a potential last-minute hearing show that Republicans aren’t giving up yet and are feeling pressure to act quickly.
The reaction that Republicans get on recess to their deeply unpopular repeal push may end out outweighing that “pressure to act quickly.”
Members are scheduled to leave for their spring break Thursday without having voted on health care. They’ll return on April 24 to face another challenge — government funding runs out days after they come back, on April 28.
So after hearing from constituents, members of Congress will immediately plunge into a government shutdown fight, pushing any action on repeal further into the future.
On the face of it, Trump’s assertion is absurd. Numerous former national security officials told The Fact Checker that Rice, as national security adviser, had every right to request the identities of U.S. citizens who were incidentally recorded or referenced in surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency.
As Kessler notes, it’s not clear what Trump is pinpointing as a possible crime: the incidental collection of data on U.S. citizens, or the leaking of info about it. It’s unlikely Trump himself knows.
Conclusion: “Ethics experts argue that Mr. Trump’s visits to properties that are owned, managed or branded by the Trump Organization amount to free publicity for the company, blurring the line between his family business and his presidential duties.” Actually, it’s taxpayer-funded publicity.
Here’s a way around the audit problem: The president can disclose his new return at the same time he files it — before the IRS can start an audit.
Surely Trump will leap at this opportunity to do what he himself claims to want to do.
“If the world wanted to stop this, they would have done so by now,” a woman who gave her name as Om Ahmed said in a telephone interview. “One more chemical attack in a town the world hasn’t heard of won’t change anything.”
Then her voice cracked. “I’m sorry. My son died yesterday,” she said. “I have nothing left to say to the world.”