Jane Mayer writes in the New Yorker about Robert Mercer and his daughter, Rebekah, who have poured millions of dollars into Breitbart News, and who pushed to have Bannon run Trump’s campaign.
.. MAYER: Among the theories that Robinson has propounded and that Bob Mercer has accepted is that climate change is not happening. It’s not for real, and if it is happening, it’s going to be good for the planet. That’s one of his theories, and the other theory that I found particularly worrisome was they believe that nuclear war is really not such a big deal. It’s survivable, and – they think.
And they’ve actually argued that outside of the immediate blast zone in Japan during World War II – outside of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – that the radiation was actually good for the Japanese. So they see a kind of a silver lining in nuclear war and nuclear accidents. And he co-authored a book in 1986 that I took a look at that describes ways that Americans can survive nuclear war by basically digging fallout shelters all across the country. And he believes that radiation is potentially good for people’s health.
DAVIES: And do the Mercer’s seem to have embraced Robinson’s views about nuclear war and climate change?
MAYER: Well, Bob Mercer has certainly embraced the view that radiation could be good for human health – low level radiation. And he’s been in arguments with people that I interviewed about it, so, yes, very much. He seems extremely influenced by Arthur Robinson’s scientific findings.
.. they have very extreme views, and they’re impatient – both of them. They want action fast. And what was a question for me as I was reporting this was, so how did they get what they wanted? What did they do? And they couldn’t really do it on their own because, like many wealthy people who have strong political ideas, they have no idea how to sort of manipulate politics. They need some kind of professional help. And the person they turned to for that was Steve Bannon.
.. Yet, when Trump’s campaign started to really fall apart last August, it was Mercer’s daughter who met with Trump’s people and with Trump and said, I’ll put money in, but you’re going to have to basically put my people in charge of your campaign.
.. MAYER: Well, now, Trump and Steve Bannon go way back. And that’s a different story. Steve Bannon saw Trump speak at CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference – years ago, maybe 2013 or 2014, and was blown away by Trump. And so he’s been actually quite helpful to Trump for years. He – when he was running Breitbart, Bannon gave Trump tons of great coverage and really boosted his visibility. So yeah – so Bannon and Trump have been in touch for quite some time.
.. MAYER: Well, according to people I interviewed such as Sam Nunberg, who was an early, early member of the Trump campaign, Breitbart was enormously helpful in providing a platform for Trump, a national platform. And it gave Trump space to sort of test out his narrative and see which storylines worked best and promoted him so much so that Steve Bannon wrote an email to a friend that eventually leaked out – and this was way back in – in 2015 – saying that he was secretly Trump’s campaign manager.
.. DAVIES: You actually spoke to Steve Bannon for this piece.
MAYER: I did speak to Steve Bannon.
DAVIES: What did he tell you?
MAYER: And he was fascinating. He’s very articulate, and he said – he minced no words about the Mercers. He said they laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. He said irrefutably that when you look at the donors in the past four years, he said they’ve had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs.
.. Rebekah Mercer who met with Trump and said – your campaign’s a mess. I would like to support you, but you’re going to have to straighten out the way you’re running it. And she suggested that he put Steve Bannon in charge of the campaign as campaign chairman, Kellyanne Conway in charge as campaign manager and that they also put in David Bossie, who runs the group Citizens United, as deputy campaign manager. And Bossie is someone else who the Mercers have supported financially through his group for quite some time. In essence, they were circling Trump with their own people.
.. She had mixed success, but she had some serious successes with Mike Flynn who she wanted to have become national security adviser. And of course, Trump did choose him. He didn’t last very long, but he was in there. And she pushed very hard for Jeff Sessions to be the attorney general, and she got success with that. And she pushed very hard to have Bannon play a major role in the White House. And of course, he is now Trump’s strategic adviser. And at first, she was hoping that Kellyanne Conway would not go into the White House but would stay outside and help Rebekah Mercer run an outside group that would support Trump, but that didn’t happen. Kellyanne Conway went into the White House.
So her people did quite well. I mean, there’s some people that she wanted that didn’t get jobs. She wanted John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to be the secretary of state, and she was very disappointed when he didn’t get that. And she has touted this very odd scientist that her family has supported, Arthur Robinson, to be the national science adviser. And so far, that hasn’t happened.
.. And I think if you sort of step back, one of the things that interests me about what Trump is doing is I think you can see that he is – on questions having to do with the health care fight and the budget, he’s taking positions that are very much aligned with the super-rich donors, particularly things that the Mercers would have liked and in some ways, taking policy positions that hurt many of the middle-class and lower middle-class voters who supported him.
.. Rebekah Mercer’s got a game plan in mind. What she’s hoping to do is start an outside group that’s outside of the White House that’s going to be a powerful voice pushing Trump to take her point of view. And so when – it will trumpet his moves when they – when she thinks they’re good and attack him when she thinks that he’s, you know, not following a tough enough line. And I – you know, so we will start probably seeing commercials and a lot of social media coming from this group.
.. He said that Mercer wanted to shrink the government to the size of a pinhead and that he doesn’t think that – he basically has a philosophy, according to Magerman, that values people on the basis of what they earn. He doesn’t think human beings have intrinsic value. He thinks that if you are a schoolteacher and you earn 2 million times less than Mercer earns, then you’re 2 million times less valuable than Mercer is. And he believes that if you are on welfare, you have negative value. And what Magerman said was, and he’s not talking about economically. He means as a human being.
So he has this kind of very mechanistic, almost kind of Ayn Rand-like, objectivist philosophy.
.. since the Citizens United decision and the others that were part of that was – is that you can now have people – a few people with an incredible amount of money who the rest of the country doesn’t even know their names, let alone who they are or what they want. And they can have this outsized impact. And I think that that’s what’s different.
You know, before Citizens United, there was still a lot of money in politics, but because there were limits on how much any single person could give at any time to PACs, there were bundlers, and they were known to people. And they were – kind of the parties had much more influence which had much more consensus.