Donald Trump isn't even president yet, but it looks like his honeymoon with Breitbart News could be over. After the president-elect's transition team said Tuesday that he does not plan to push for criminal investigations of former rival Hillary Clinton, the hard-right news site that was one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders during the campaign called him out in a sharply-worded headline: “BROKEN PROMISE: TRUMP 'DOESN'T WISH TO PURSUE' CLINTON EMAIL CHARGES.”
The accompanying article was a relatively tame summary of remarks Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway made earlier in the day on MSNBC. Conway said Trump is “thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them.”
As The Fix's Philip Bump put it, “there's a tacit admission there that Trump's insistence that he would prosecute Clinton was all campaign rhetoric.”
This shouldn't come as a shock, but it is epically disappointing to legions of Trump fans who chanted “lock her up!” at the billionaire's rallies because that is one promise they seemed to treat not as a metaphorical pledge, but as one they believed he would deliver on. (Just read the comments on Breitbart's article.)
The “broken promise” headline lends credence to something Stephen K. Bannon told the Wall Street Journal last week. Bannon, who will be Trump's chief White House strategist, was Breitbart's chairman until he joined the campaign in August.
Now he will take an “extended leave of absence and cut all association with the site while I’m working at the pleasure of the president.” He adds that Breitbart “didn’t get a scoop from the campaign from the minute I took over; they’ve had to scramble like everybody else.”
Yet given its loyalty to Messrs. Bannon and Trump, won’t Breitbart serve as an attack dog against Republicans who defy the new president? Mr. Bannon says he believes the site will “call it as it sees it” and that even the Trump administration will be open for criticism if it doesn’t “stay true to its vision.” He adds: “If we don’t, I assume they will hammer us.”
It is still possible, of course, that Bannon will pressure Breitbart to stay in line behind Trump and that the site will function like the state news service that conservative radio host Charlie Sykes said he expects it to be. But for now, anyway, the hammering has begun.