Trump's chief strategist in danger of losing job

Mr Stephen Bannon's allies have begun discussing a post-White House future for him.
Mr Stephen Bannon's allies have begun discussing a post-White House future for him.PHOTO: REUTERS

US President undercuts Bannon in interviews; plays down campaign role

WASHINGTON • Mr Stephen Bannon, United States President Donald Trump's chief strategist, has a fitting nickname for his West Wing office - "the war room".

But more and more, war is being waged on Mr Bannon himself. And it is unclear how much longer he can survive in his job.

His isolation inside the White House, after weeks of battle with senior aides aligned with Mr Jared Kushner, Mr Trump's son-in-law, appeared to grow even starker this week after the President undercut Mr Bannon in two interviews and played down his role in the Trump presidential campaign.

"I am my own strategist," Mr Trump told a New York Post columnist in an interview on Tuesday, a pointed reference to what aides described as his growing irritation that Mr Bannon's allies are calling him the mastermind behind Mr Trump's election victory.

Mr Bannon's reversal of fortunes is a reflection of a White House with an unconventional management structure, opaque lines of responsibility and rafts of aides left to implement complex and contested campaign promises: tighten immigration, roll back regulations, repeal the Affordable Care Act and take a more protectionist approach to trade.

WRONG MOVE

I think firing Bannon would be a huge mistake for Trump. Hell hath no fury like a Bannon scorned.

MR STEVE DEACE, a conservative commentator from Iowa on the possibility that US President Donald Trump might sack chief strategist Stephen Bannon.

Mr Bannon has described himself as being responsible for their implementation. But the execution has been botched. And that is leaving some conservatives afraid that Mr Bannon's possible removal could be a precursor to shelving the most complicated and contentious priorities.

By openly criticising Mr Bannon, Mr Trump has made it hard for the chief strategist to remain in place without appearing deeply undermined.

Allies of Mr Trump say he has become more impatient with the infighting - and the overwhelming attention it is getting in the media.

In a lengthy conversation with Mr Bannon this week, the President repeated his admonition that the chief strategist and his adversaries needed to "knock off" their back-and-forth sniping.

Mr Trump insisted as much in the Post interview, saying: "Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will."

But his comments in private, said those who have spoken with him, have been more pointed.

Mr Bannon appears to now recognise the danger and has kept a low profile inside the White House. He has told friends and associates that he understands he cannot throw bombs every day and needs to pick his battles carefully.

He had also told several associates over the weekend that he believed things had cooled off with Mr Kushner. But the comments from the President suggests the truce is uneasy and may not last.

Mr Bannon's allies have already begun discussing a post-White House future for him. Last Friday, his main political patron, financier Rebekah Mercer, daughter of major Trump donor Robert Mercer, holed up in her office at Cambridge Analytica in New York, discussing possibilities for Mr Bannon should he leave, according to two people briefed on the meeting. Mr Bannon served on the board of the data-mining firm until last year.

Mr Steve Deace, a conservative commentator from Iowa who has always been sceptical about Mr Trump's conservative core, said cutting Mr Bannon loose would send the wrong signal to conservatives - and could be dangerous, given the delight Mr Bannon takes in disruption. "I think firing Bannon would be a huge mistake for Trump. Hell hath no fury like a Bannon scorned."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's chief strategist in danger of losing job'. Print Edition | Subscribe