It’s no secret that there is no love lost between Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner. Kushner is first on Bannon’s hit list, along with Ivanka of course, then H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn and Dina Powell, more or less in that order. Breitbart editor Alex Marlow says, “He wants to beat their ideas into submission. Steve has a lot of things up his sleeve.” Vanity Fair:
The chaotic, war-torn West Wing of the past six months will be prologue, but the coming struggles will be as personal as they are ideological, waged not with leaks but with slashing Breitbart banners. On Sunday, Breitbart took renewed aim at McMaster, with a headline claiming he advocated “Quran Kissing.” But most of all, there’s a deep animosity between Bannon and Kushner, amplified by a lack of respect. Bannon finds Kushner’s political instincts highly questionable. “He said Jared is a dope,” one Bannon ally recalled. The two clashed fiercely on personnel decisions and policy debates, both domestic and international, many of which Bannon lost.
But Bannon, who was the only West Wing advisor to publicly support the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, is especially galled at being scapegoated as an anti-Semite in its wake. “It’s one of the attacks he takes most personally because it’s not true,” a Breitbart staffer told me. Bannon’s allies lay out a more complicated backstory. Bannon, they say, lobbied Trump aggressively to move America’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but was blocked by Kushner. And, according to three Bannon allies, Bannon pushed a tougher line against the Palestinians than Kushner did. In May, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited the White House, Bannon stayed home. “I’m not going to breathe the same air as that terrorist,” Bannon texted a friend.
Now here is where it gets interesting. The first thing to remember, as always, is follow the money. Kushner ostensibly was turning people against Bannon, including Matt Drudge and Rupert Murdoch. The Murdoch allegation is interesting because Murdoch is worried that Sinclair Broadcasting is going to become a rival to Fox News. David Smith, “the biggest man in media which you never heard of” has stated his plans to make Sinclair “do for local news what Fox News did for national news.”
In the final weeks, Bannon was relentlessly tarred as a prime West Wing leaker, but Bannon’s allies make a similar case about Kushner. Specifically, they believe that Kushner cultivated a relationship with Matt Drudge, who frequently pushed anti-Bannon headlines—“The Total Eclipse of Steve Bannon”; “Bannon ‘Is the Real President”—in the weeks leading up to Trump’s decision to defenestrate him. Bannon also told friends that he believed Kushner encouraged Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch to lobby Trump to fire him. Last week, The New York Times reported that Murdoch told Trump over a private dinner with Kushner that Trump needed to jettison his chief strategist. The Bannon camp believes that Murdoch was especially receptive to Kushner’s lobbying because Murdoch is worried about the rise of Sinclair Broadcasting as a competitor to Fox, and blames Bannon for Trump’s decision so far not to block the Sinclair’s $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media in May.
Bottom line, when Bannon was terminated a couple of weeks ago he met with Robert Mercer the same day. Mercer and Bannon are looking to expand Breitbart into television. Boris Epshteyn, a Sinclair political analyst has spoken with Breitbart. Connect the dots, Sinclair and Breitbart may partner up and you can only imagine. No wonder Murdoch is sweating. A Breitbart aide told Vanity Fair, “Television is definitely on the table.”
And get this: Donald Trump ostensibly still talks to Steve Bannon on his personal phone and asks his opinion. Bannon is on a par with Roger Stone. Stone knifed him, but Bannon’s on par with him.