On the morning he was being ousted as Donald Trump’s chief strategist last Friday, Steve Bannon had already turned the page. “Why do you sound unfazed?” a friend asked Bannon as news of his demise ricocheted across the web. “Because,” Bannon replied, “we’re going to war.” Hours later, Bannon was calling into the editorial meeting at Breitbart News, rallying his troops to continue the battles he waged inside the White House. “We have a duty to the country to be the vanguard of ‘The Movement,’” he told his staff, according to one person on the call. Bannon’s main targets are the West Wing’s coterie of New York Democrat “globalists”—Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn—as well as the “hawks,” comprised of National Security Adviser H.R McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell. “He wants to beat their ideas into submission,” Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow told me. “Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.”
The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there’s a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner’s political instincts highly questionable. “He said Jared is a dope,” one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost. But Bannon, who was the only West Wing advisor to publicly support the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, is especially galled at being scapegoated as an anti-Semite in its wake. “It’s one of the attacks he takes most personally because it’s not true,” a Breitbart staffer told me. Bannon’s allies lay out a more complicated backstory. Bannon, they say, lobbied Trump aggressively to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but was blocked by Kushner. And, according to three Bannon allies, Bannon pushed a tougher line against the Palestinians than Kushner did. In May, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the White House, Bannon stayed home. “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist,” Bannon texted a friend.
In the final weeks, Bannon was relentlessly tarred as a prime West Wing leaker, but Bannon’s allies make a similar case about Kushner. Specifically, they believe that Kushner cultivated a relationship with Matt Drudge, who frequently pushed anti-Bannon headlines—“The Total Eclipse of Steve Bannon”; “Bannon ‘Is the Real President”—in the weeks leading up to Trump’s decision to defenestrate him. Bannon also told friends that he believed Kushner encouraged Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch to lobby Trump to fire him. Last week, The New York Times reported that Murdoch told Trump over a private dinner with Kushner that Trump needed to jettison his chief strategist. The Bannon camp believes that Murdoch was especially receptive to Kushner’s lobbying because Murdoch is worried about the rise of Sinclair Broadcasting as a competitor to Fox, and blames Bannon for Trump’s decision so far not to block the Sinclair’s $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media in May.
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