The Trump administration is all about palace intrigue and Steve Bannon is Rasputin to Donald Trump’s Czar Nicholas. Leaks are the order of the day, such that the White House is now surrounded by a metaphorical moat. Obama aide and media pundit Dan Pfieffer told New York Magazine in February, “If you read between the lines in some of the anonymous quotes, it’s clear that Bannon, Kushner, and Priebus are spending half their time blaming each other and the other half ensuring they don’t get the blame.” The main stream media is rife today with speculation as to where the leaks on Trump-Russia are coming from. Morning Joe Scarborough is leaning towards Steve Bannon as the leaker in chief. RawStory:
The Times has broken stories three days in a row about Trump Jr. meeting — along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort — with a Russia attorney who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, and apparently in exchange for lifting sanctions on her clients for human rights violations.
“This does look like it’s coming from the inside,” Scarborough said, repeating his claim from Monday morning. “I don’t know — who is that? Who is leaking all this from the inside? Who’s trying to get Don Jr. and Jared Kushner out of the way?”
Scarborough seemed to suggest Bannon — who has reportedly clashed with Kushner in behind-the-scenes power struggles — had been dribbling leaks about the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and former FBI agent Clint Watts agreed.
“I am tired of hearing about this ‘deep state’ leaking intelligence,” Watts said. “There’s only one way to get all these dots connected, and you have to have someone in the center. We hear about NSA, you know, a memo being there, the (director of national intelligence), a memo being there, Comey having memos about pressure regarding Russia — that comes from the center. It is very difficult, if you’re in journalism or intelligence, to get sources who want to give up their entire career and potentially go to jail in six or seven different locations in the intelligence community. I don’t believe our intelligence professionals are coughing up this information — I believe it’s in Donald Trump’s house.”
“It seems to me that the Trump administration knew this was coming out,” [MSNBC’s Lawrence] O’Donnell began. “Manafort disclosed it, the House investigators know it. Now it’s on Jared Kushner’s disclosure form finally, and it represents a possible crime in Jared Kushner’s case because he did not put it on his original disclosure forms. So at some point, the Trump administration has the decision: do we want to see this thing come out in the middle of a House hearing that Jared Kushner is the witness at — where it lands as a bombshell on Jared Kushner — or do we want it to come out before that and maybe come out with Donald Trump Jr. being the star because Donald Trump Jr. doesn’t face the same criminal liability as Jared Kushner does?”
“Yeah. you know, they’re shaping up for a very interesting Thanksgiving dinner in the Trump household,” Klain joked. “I mean, it does feel to me, kind of like you implied, that perhaps this story was put out and hung on Donald Trump’s son to move it away from Donald Trump’s son-in-law, who definitely has more legal exposure, who is right in the heart of the White House, who’s in the middle of all these policy matters, who played a role in firing FBI Director [James] Comey, who supposedly is one of the people who advised the president to fire Director Comey, who has been threatening your colleagues here at MSNBC with bad stories and all these things.”
“It may well be, as incredible as this is, that this was an effort by the Trump White House to hang this on Donald Trump Jr. and move it away from Jared Kushner,” he speculated.
It’s a safe bet that any information coming out of the White House, leaked or otherwise, is coming out with Steve Bannon’s blessing or not at all. Steve Bannon is back in Trump’s good graces, after his biblical fall from grace in February, when the TIME Magazine cover depicting Bannon as “the great manipulator” earned Bannon Trump’s displeasure, at least for a time. Now, like Rasputin, Steve Bannon has proven more difficult to get rid of than was originally thought. Moreover, apparently Bannon is the only one that Trump can depend upon. He’s out of the doghouse and leading the charge against Robert Mueller, and the Trump-Russia investigation according to New York Magazine:
“If the whole White House is backed up against the wall facing a firing squad, Steve will stay there,” says Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “Reince [Priebus] and the other guys will run.”
Trump didn’t always feel that Bannon was loyal to the death and he certainly didn’t feel that way about Bannon. Back in February Trump was mad as a hatter at Bannon. More from New York Magazine:
Soon after the Time cover, encouraged by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Trump humiliated Bannon by stripping him of his position on the National Security Council, cutting him out of key meetings, and declining to voice his faith in Bannon, who he pointedly told The Wall Street Journal was just “a guy who works for me.” He later added that he was his own strategist. Even Bannon’s old friend Matt Drudge turned on him, fanning stories on the Drudge Report that highlighted his fall from power. “Drudge and Bannon have been close forever,” says one outside Bannon ally. “That was a big stab in the back for Steve.” Meanwhile, rumors spread that Kushner was trying to force Bannon out, a claim longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone amplified on Alex Jones’s radio show. Bannon griped to a White House colleague that Kushner was trying to “shiv him and push him out the door,” according to the Daily Beast.
Even as he was bottoming out, Bannon spied the next upturn. On April 6, the New York Times published a story revealing that Kushner had omitted meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, the state-owned (and Putin-aligned) Russian development bank, when he applied for top-secret security clearance. Those meetings, Bannon told White House allies at the time, were certain to become a problem. News accounts of White House battles between “nationalists” like Bannon and “globalists” like Kushner began popping up everywhere. When friends from his old life as chairman of Breitbart News warned Bannon about taking on the president’s son-in-law, Bannon scoffed. Watch, he replied, Trump won’t hesitate to sideline Kushner if he has to.
By the time he left for Saudi Arabia on May 19, Trump had awakened to the danger the Russia investigation poses to his presidency. So he brought Bannon out of the doghouse and gave him a familiar mission: to organize a defense, go after his enemies, and head off the latest threat to Trump’s political career. Bannon’s first task was to create an outside war room to “put a prophylactic around the Oval Office,” as a White House official put it, one that would shield Trump from the encroaching crisis. […] Bannon told an associate that one reason he set up the war room outside the White House, rather than inside, was so that his team would have more freedom to “throw some fucking haymakers.”
Right now it’s anybody’s guess exactly what the “fucking haymakers” might be that Bannon could throw. Bannon was the only one of Trump’s inner circle to advise against firing James Comey. He’s also taken a stance that Trump should not fire Robert Mueller even though as former adviser Roger Stone points out, “One thing that is dangerous is telling Donald Trump that he can’t do something because then he wants to do it.” And for the moment it appears that Trump has swiveled his sights away from Muller and Comey, incredulously to Mika Brzezinski and CNN. It’s also noteworthy that Kushner and Bannon were at each other’s throats a few months ago but now it would appear that Bannon has decided to save Kushner by sacrificing Donald Jr. On these facts, the Trump White House is totally unpredictable and it is entirely possible that Steve Bannon is taking charge by pitting Trump’s son against his son in law, for who knows what purpose. It’s not outside the bounds of plausibility for this madcap version of an administration, not even remotely.