Here’s where things stand heading into Day 36 of the Trump administration:

Many people had never heard of Stephen K. Bannon until mid-November, when he was appointed chief White House strategist by Donald Trump.

Now, Bannon is one of the most powerful people in government and the driving force behind Trump’s nationalist agenda as president. He’s become a center of controversy in the national debate over Trump’s presidency — and a magnet for criticism from Democrats who accuse him of harboring white nationalist views. (Bannon denies this.) “Saturday Night Live” recently nodded to this in a cold opening that featured Bannon as the Grim Reaper.

So far, Bannon, a former naval officer, an investment banker, filmmaker and chairman of Breitbart News, has been a reclusive figure in Trump’s Washington. But on Thursday, he broke that pattern by attending the Conservative Political Action Conference and giving public remarks, his first since the inauguration.

There, he sat on stage alongside White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for a joint interview. Bannon and Priebus have been described as rivals within the Trump White House, but they sought to bury that perception Thursday in shows of friendliness.

“Reince has been unwavering since the very first moment I met him,” Bannon said. “I cherish his friendship,” Priebus responded later.

“You guys have been so sort of ‘Kumbaya’ here,” interviewer Matt Schlapp, a CPAC organizer, told the pair.

At other points in his remarks, Bannon took time to further the administration’s war against the media, which he repeatedly described as “the opposition party.”

“They’re going to continue to fight,” Bannon said of journalists. “They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has.”

The media are just part of who the Trump administration is fighting, according to Bannon. He talked about the “deconstruction of the administrative state,” saying the current system needs to be replaced with one that better empowers ordinary Americans.

His core belief, Bannon said, is that “we’re a nation with an economy — not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders.”


Earlier in the day, while meeting with a group of manufacturing executives, Trump praised the sweeping federal raids that have targeted illegal immigrants for deportation.

“We’re getting gang members out, we’re getting drug lords out, we’re getting really bad dudes out of this country,” Trump said at the White House.

Like Trump, administration officials have described the recent enforcement actions as targeting people with criminal records. But it might not be so simple. The raids have drawn a harsh rebuke from immigrant advocates for netting some undocumented people who have not committed crimes.

On Thursday, Trump’s comments took a confusing turn when he called the raids a “military operation.” White House press secretary Sean Spicer later said Trump used the phrase “to describe how the raids were being conducted, not to suggest that they are being done by the military,” our colleague wrote.


Spicer did his best to clarify Trump’s “military operation” comment from the White House lectern, but it still muddied the waters Thursday.

That’s because it seemed to contradict the exact message Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly was giving to Mexican government officials at almost the same moment — that the United States would not use the military to deport undocumented immigrants.

“There will be no, repeat, no mass deportations,” Kelly told reporters after meetings in Mexico City with government leaders. “Everything we do in DHS will be done legally and according to human rights.”

Trump’s comment about the military illustrates the challenge foreign leaders face in trying to decipher the policy positions of the new administration. Often, Trump seems to says one thing while his deputies say another.

Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Mexico this week in an effort to reduce tensions with the Mexican government over issues such as trade, U.S. plans to dramatically increase the number of illegal immigrants who could be deported and which country would pay for a border wall.

Follow the author @eliseviebeck.