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'I Like Steve, but ...': Trump Gives Tepid Approval of Bannon Amid Staff Infighting

President downplayed top adviser’s contribution to campaign with lukewarm interview response a week after removing Bannon from National Security Council.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Donald Trump appears to be souring on one of his top advisers, dodging a question from the New York Post about his confidence in chief strategist Steve Bannon.

“I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump said Tuesday. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist.”

Trump tends to speak in superlatives about his political allies – often deploying words like “tremendous” and “fantastic” to describe them. But his less enthusiastic answer about Bannon comes amid reports of infighting in the Trump White House, all of which place the gruff, irascible Bannon at the center.

Trump concluded his brief interview with the Post with what seemed to be a reference to these disputes, saying: “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”

A week ago Bannon was also axed from Trump’s national security council. His appointment there during the first couple weeks of Trump’s presidency raised eyebrows, as “advisers” do not traditionally hold such a role. The White House downplayed the significance of the move, but officials close to the situation told the Guardian it was “huge” and “a big deal”.

Reports from Washington have situated Bannon on the losing end of a power struggle with other top Trump confidantes, namely Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. Bannon, a white nationalist sympathizer and former Breitbart publisher, is thought to be the voice of the “alt-right” in Trump’s administration, while Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, are perceived as more mainstream, and even supposedly liberalizing influences on the president.

CNN reported that on Thursday at Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago Florida retreat, he told the two men: “We gotta work this out” and “Cut it out.” On Friday, Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, apparently brokered a meeting for the men to try to smooth out some of their differences. Publicly, the White House has played down any notion of a rift.

 

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