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Bannon: Trump administration is in unending battle for ‘deconstruction of the administrative state’

White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Feb. 23. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s reclusive chief strategist and the intellectual force behind his nationalist agenda, said Thursday that the new administration is locked in an unending battle against the media and other globalist forces to “deconstruct” an outdated system of governance.

In his first public speaking appearance since Trump took office, Bannon made his comments alongside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus at a gathering of conservative activists. They sought to prove that they are not rivals but partners in fighting on Trump’s behalf to transform Washington and the world order.

“They’re going to continue to fight,” Bannon said of the media, which he repeatedly described as “the opposition party,” and other forces he sees as standing in the president’s way. “If you think they are giving you your country back without a fight, you are sadly mistaken.”

Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.

“If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction,” Bannon said. He posited that Trump’s announcement withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership was “one of the most pivotal moments in modern American history.”

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Bannon and Priebus advanced the administration’s war against the media in a joint appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where they were interviewed on stage by Matt Schlapp, president of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the gathering. Last week, Trump tweeted an extraordinary condemnation of the media, calling news organizations “the enemy of the American People.”

Bannon picked up that theme Thursday in his remarks at CPAC: “They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.”

Bannon also said, “If you look at the opposition party and how they portrayed the campaign and how they portrayed the transition and how they portray the administration, it’s always wrong.”

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Priebus agreed, saying that he thinks the biggest misconception about the Trump administration in its first month is “everything that you’re reading.” He and Bannon were defiant about the way they have been represented in the media, insisting that they were close friends and partners and that reports of power struggles were flat wrong.

Priebus said that after “attacking” Trump during the campaign, journalists “now feed ridiculous stories, and all we do every day — and all President Trump does every day — is hit his agenda, every single day.”

Bannon added, “Just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the campaign and just like they were dead wrong on the chaos of the transition, they are absolutely dead wrong on what they’re reporting today.” He said “all” of Trump’s campaign promises would be implemented in short order.

Schlapp asked Priebus and Bannon what each likes most about the other. Looking at Bannon, who was wearing a dark jacket and open-collared shirt with no tie, Priebus quipped: “I love how many collars he wears. Interesting look.” Then he got serious, saying Bannon is “very dogged” and “incredibly loyal” — and called him “a very dear friend.”

Bannon commended Priebus on being a “steady” force inside the West Wing.

“I can run a little hot on occasions, but Reince is indefatigable,” Bannon said. “Reince is indefatigable in saying, ‘We’ve got to drive this forward.’ ”