Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: “There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”
.. “To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”
.. Bannon explained that his strategy is to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right. Hence the phone call to me.
.. First, to the extent that most of the opponents of Bannon’s China trade strategy are other Trump administration officials, it’s not clear how reaching out to the left helps him. If anything, it gives his adversaries ammunition to characterize Bannon as unreliable or disloyal.
.. He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”
“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.
.. “The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”
Richard Spencer and Nathan Damigo, two leading figures of the white nationalist alt-right movement who had participated in Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally , spoke to reporters at Spencer’s office and apartment in Alexandria.
.. Spencer blamed the authorities for what happened in Charlottesville, saying the city’s mayor and governor of Virginia have “blood on their hands” for not policing the situation properly. The alt-right, he said, is “nonviolent;” he waxed nostalgic while speaking about the hundreds of white nationalists marching through Charlottesville with torches on Friday night, calling the event “really beautiful.”
Some fighting between them and counter-protesters reportedly took place during the Friday event;
Saturday’s rally attracted militia members with guns, and descended into all-out street violence.
.. But one person who didn’t come in for unequivocal criticism was Charlottesville suspect James Alex Fields, who has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who had come to protest the Unite the Right event. Fields was photographed earlier in the day at the rally with Vanguard America, a self-identified white supremacist and fascist group that attended the rally.
.. General Jeff Sessions has called the incident an act of terrorism.
.. “I am not going to condemn this young man at this point,” Spencer said. When he first saw the video, he said, he saw it as a “malicious act of violence”; but he’s now less sure that it was a purposeful act and won’t come down on one side or another until an investigation is complete.
.. Spencer dismissed Trump’s statement as “kumbaya nonsense” and said he didn’t view it as a repudiation of his movement, which he defended as “non-violent.”
“He sounded like a Sunday school teacher,” he said. “I just don’t take it seriously.”
.. “I don’t know exactly what he meant by that statement,” Damigo said. “People in his position, they’re not stupid, they make these very ambiguous statements with words that are very loaded and hard to interpret.”
.. we don’t know the facts yet.
.. “We were connected with Donald Trump on a kind of psychic level,” he said of the alt-right. Trump is the “first true authentic nationalist in my lifetime.”
.. Asked who in the White House he views as a fellow traveler of the alt-right, Spencer named top policy advisor Stephen Miller and chief strategist Steve Bannon
“They at least are connected with identitarian ideas in a way that the rest of them are not,” Spencer said.
.. But he seemed less than cowed, promising to return to Charlottesville.
“There’s no way in hell I’m not going back to Charlottesville,” he said.
Rupert Murdoch has repeatedly urged President Trump to fire him. Anthony Scaramucci, the president’s former communications director, thrashed him on television as a white nationalist. Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, refused to even say he could work with him.
.. So far, Mr. Trump has not been able to follow through — a product of his dislike of confrontation, the bonds of foxhole friendship forged during the 2016 presidential campaign and concerns about what mischief Mr. Bannon might do once he leaves the protective custody of the West Wing.
.. Despite his marginalization, Mr. Bannon consulted the president repeatedly over the weekend as Mr. Trump struggled to respond to the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va. In general, Mr. Bannon has cautioned the president not to criticize far-right activists too severely for fear of antagonizing a small but energetic part of his base.
.. Mr. Bannon also has admirers, including Representative Mark Meadows, the North Carolina Republican and the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, who said that without Mr. Bannon, “there is a concern among conservatives that Washington, D.C., will influence the president in way that moves him away from those voters that put him in the White House.”
And Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa and an immigration hard-liner, said that shoving out Mr. Bannon would leave conservatives “crushed.”
.. Mr. Bannon, who adamantly rejects claims that he is a racist or a sympathizer of white supremacists, is in trouble with John F. Kelly, a retired Marine general and the new White House chief of staff. Mr. Kelly has told Mr. Trump’s top staff that he will not tolerate Mr. Bannon’s shadowland machinations, according to a dozen current and former Trump aides and associates with knowledge of the situation.
Mr. Bannon’s alleged crimes:
- Leaking nasty stories about General McMaster and other colleagues he deems insufficiently populist,
- feuding bitterly with Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and
- creating his own cadre within the West Wing that operates outside the chain of command.
.. One of his main sins in the eyes of the president is appearing to revel in the perception that he is the mastermind behind the rise of a pliable Mr. Trump. The president was deeply annoyed at a Time magazine cover
.. Others say Mr. Bannon’s continued presence in the White House is not serving the president’s interests.
“He’s got to move more into the mainstream, he’s got to be more into where the moderates are and the independents are,” said Mr. Scaramucci
.. Top administration officials like to joke that working for Mr. Trump is like toiling in the court of Henry VIII.
.. Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, recently handed out copies of the play “A Man for all Seasons,” about the last years of Sir Thomas More, Henry’s chancellor, who was executed for failing to endorse Henry’s split with Rome.
.. From the start, Mr. Bannon, 63, has told people in his orbit that he never expected to last in his current position longer than eight months to a year, and hoped to ram through as much of his agenda as he could
.. Mr. Bannon’s ability to hang on as Mr. Trump’s in-house populist is in part because of his connections to a handful of ultrarich political patrons, including Sheldon G. Adelson, the pro-Israel, Las Vegas-based casino magnate.
.. He is especially close to the reclusive conservative billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, who is a frequent sounding board for Mr. Bannon.
.. has suggested that he might direct his energies at creating a movement to challenge mainstream Republicans too timid to pursue the president’s agenda, like Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
.. Mr. Bannon’s cause is being damaged, people close to the president say, by a war he is waging against General McMaster.
.. the national security adviser, whom he believes to be prodding the president toward possible war with North Korea and Venezuela.
.. Mr. Bannon’s protégé, chief speechwriter and policy director, Stephen Miller, shares his populist agenda — centered around a controversial immigration crackdown — and has become one of the president’s favorite aides.
.. Despite his image in the news media as a confrontational ideologue, Mr. Miller has proved to be a deft operator who has ingratiated himself to Mr. Kushner.
In demeaning tweets and public statements, Trump blamed McConnell (Ky.), who remains popular among GOP senators, for the party’s inability to muscle through an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. The president also urged McConnell to “get back to work” on that and other campaign promises, including cutting taxes and spurring new infrastructure spending.
.. Trump associates said the attacks, which began Wednesday night and resumed Thursday, were intended to shore up Trump’s outside-the-Beltway populist credentials and would resonate with core supporters frustrated by a lack of progress in Washington.
.. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), a Trump adviser, said on Fox News Channel that the president bears some responsibility for the Republican failure on the health-care legislation.
.. Even some Republicans close to the president suggested that the attacks on McConnell would hurt him on Capitol Hill, where relations with GOP leaders have seriously frayed as Trump’s agenda has stalled.
.. “Discerning a particular strategy or goal from these tweets is hard,” said Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee communications director and a former Capitol Hill staff member. “It just doesn’t help enact any part of his agenda, and it sends a further troubling sign to Capitol Hill Republicans already wary of the White House.”
.. McConnell has been one of the most steadfast supporters of Trump’s agenda in Congress, and, at least publicly, Trump has had a smoother relationship with McConnell than he has with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional leaders.
.. In April, McConnell orchestrated the confirmation of Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, changing the Senate rules so that Democrats could not block the nomination. The Gorsuch confirmation is Trump’s largest victory on Capitol Hill.
.. Politico first reported that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire heavily involved in Trump’s political ascendancy, is making a donation to a group supporting former Arizona state senator Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year.
.. However, inside the White House, Trump has a collection of advisers who have had antagonistic relationships with McConnell and Senate GOP leaders.
- Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, came from Breitbart, a news organization that regularly antagonized McConnell’s leadership team.
- Stephen Miller, chief policy adviser to Trump, was not considered an ally to the Senate leader’s staff when Miller was a top adviser to Jeff Sessions (Ala.) in the Senate.
- .. Moreover, one of Trump’s top legislative affairs advisers is Paul Teller, who served as Sen. Ted Cruz’s top aide during a period when the Texas Republican accused McConnell of lying about trade legislation.
- And Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Trump’s budget director, was a constant critic of the Senate during his three terms in the House, regularly opposing fiscal compromise deals that McConnell brokered with the Obama White House.