Politico is reporting that Steve Bannon came close to quitting the WH due to Jared Kushner’s power play and increasing influence over the President.
The man credited with honing Donald Trump’s populist message and guiding him into the White House has grown frustrated amid continued infighting in the West Wing, so much so that in recent weeks a top donor had to convince him to stay in his position.
Five people, including a senior administration official and several sources close to the president, tell POLITICO that Steve Bannon, one of Trump’s closest advisers, has clashed with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who’s taken on an increasingly prominent portfolio in the West Wing. Bannon has complained that Kushner and his allies are trying to undermine his populist approach, the sources said.
Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. “Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay,” said one person familiar with the situation.
Another person familiar with the situation, a GOP operative who talks to Mercer, said: “Bekah tried to convince him that this is a long-term play.”
In the equation that captures this conflict:
Bannon = populism & nationalism
Kusher = (Kushner)
Trump now appears ready to get us involved in Syria and, with Kushner in his ear, will in all likelihood be more than willing to have the U.S. do Israel’s bidding in other matters.
… Bannon’s removal from the NSC is symbolic of a broader realignment in the West Wing that has Bannon increasingly marginalized and at odds both with the president and Kushner…
Bannon has also butted heads with Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who considers him an ideologue whose advice to Trump is making it harder for the president to win popular support for his agenda, according to people familiar with the dynamic.
The tension between the two is indicative of a larger power struggle in the White House as Kushner’s prominence and responsibility have ballooned. He has helped to expand the authority of two senior West Wing officials who, like him, are less ideological in nature: former Goldman Sachs executives Gary Cohn, who is now chairman of the National Economic Council, and Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser for strategy. The national security directive removing Bannon from the NSC explicitly authorized Powell to attend the National Security Council’s Principals’ and Deputies’ Committee meetings.
The “big fight is between nationalists and the West Wing Democrats,” said a person familiar with Bannon’s thinking.
“You have these New York interlocutors who are just not political and who want to think that they’re above the way Washington thinks, but if anybody is allied on delivering on things that Trump ran on, it’s Bannon and Reince and the vice president,” said the Republican who has spoken to Bannon recently.
A writer at The Daily Beast notes:
Donald Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon has called the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner a “cuck” and a “globalist” during a time of high tension between the two top aides, several Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast.
The fighting between Kushner and Bannon has been “nonstop” in recent weeks, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. It’s been an “open secret” that Bannon and Kushner often clash “face-to-face,” according to senior officials.
One official said Bannon has lately complained about Kushner trying to “shiv him and push him out the door” and likened him to a fifth column in the White House.
Bannon is a self-described “nationalist” and long-time Republican, while Kushner was, until his father-in-law ran for president, a lifelong liberal and a Democratic donor.
The article goes on to note:
One senior Trump aide said that Bannon was also frustrated with Kushner “continuing to bring in Zeke Emanuel to discuss health care options,” for instance. The aide said Emanuel has had three White House meetings, including one with Trump…
“Steve thinks Jared is worse than a Democrat, basically,” another official close to Bannon said. “[Steve] has a very specific vision for what he believes, and what he shares [ideologically] with Trump. And he has for a long time now seen [Jared] as a major obstacle to achieving that.”
So, we have the brother of (Rahm Emanuel) now in the Circle.
A NYT story from Wed noted:
Mr. Bannon has also been at odds with Gary Cohn, the president’s national-economics adviser. Mr. Cohn is close with Mr. Kushner, who has said privately that he fears that Mr. Bannon plays to the president’s worst impulses, according to people with direct knowledge of such discussions.
I’m starting to notice a pattern here.
Trump recently sent Kushner (why him?) to Iraq… or perhaps Kushner convinced Trump to send him to Iraq. Either way, it raised eyebrows:
Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, arrived in Iraq on Monday with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s minister of defense, and US military officials.
The administration has been accused of breaching standard practice by sending Kushner as the first senior Trump official to visit Iraq, rather than the secretary of state or the national security adviser.
At The New Yorker, John Cassidy writes (“Steve Bannon Is Losing To The Globalists”):
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, has had enough of Bannon’s right-wing-revolutionary shtick; while Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, never had much sympathy for it to begin with…
But the real import of Bannon’s departure from the N.S.C. goes beyond personalities and palace intrigue. It confirms a trend we’ve seen developing for weeks now: the Trump Administration’s globalists, such as Kushner and Cohn, are growing in influence, while the nationalists—led by Bannon—are on the defensive.
To most members of the Washington foreign-policy establishment, regardless of party affiliation, that will come as an immense relief. It suggests that business as usual—Atlanticism, free trade, American economic and military engagement across the globe—will ultimately prevail. Bannon has embraced an alternative vision, which he calls “economic nationalism.” Many of his critics have identified it as a desire to upend the international order that was established after the Second World War, and to replace it with a protectionist, ethnocentric model—one in which the United States, Russia, and nationalist-led European countries join together to fight Islam and confront a rising China. During the campaign, and even during the transition, Trump sometimes seemed to be leaning in Bannon’s direction. But since he has taken office, the actions of his Administration have indicated otherwise.
Time will tell, but regarding Trump’s potential ‘globalist’ pivot, Cassidy points out the significant role both Kushner and Ivanka appear to be having:
The first indication of what was to come occurred in February, when Trump backed off the threatening signals he’d been sending to the Chinese, which had included accepting a phone call from the President of Taiwan, a country that Beijing regards as an integral part of the Middle Kingdom. In a telephone conversation with President Xi on February 9th, Trump said he would honor the “One China” policy that the U.S. government has recognized since Richard Nixon went to Beijing, in 1972.
Kushner, whose daughter Arabella is learning Mandarin, appears to have played an important role here. According to the Wall Street Journal, China’s Ambassador to Washington, Cui Tiankai, courted Kushner assiduously—and, apparently, successfully. “Trump’s son-in-law is key,” Wu Xinbo, the director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, in Shanghai, told the Journal. “First, he’s our ambassador’s main point of contact with Trump. Second, he’s the main figure for passing ideas and suggestions on China policy.”
Cassidy mentions an administration draft proposal on NAFTA revisions making the rounds and notes:
It would hardly be surprising if the Administration’s evolving trade policy is one of the sources of tension between Bannon and Cohn, who is head of the National Economic Council. Although the nafta proposal was circulated by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, it also appeared to reflect the thinking of Cohn and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, both of whom are former Goldman Sachs executives (and Democratic Party contributors).
Bannon is a former Goldman banker, too, of course. But he has drifted a long way from the internationalist, cosmopolitan outlook that is common in the upper echelons of Wall Street. Although he still has a White House ally in Peter Navarro, the free-trade skeptic who is head of the newly created National Trade Council, the globalists appear to be directing economic policy. That is certainly what the financial markets have concluded. Since the election, the value of the peso, which is widely seen as an inverse indicator of the Administration’s protectionist intent, has risen sharply.
The question has always been, Which Trump will win out: the nationalist rabble-rouser or the avatar of global capitalism? It is still too early to say for sure. But the evidence is pointing in one direction, and the outcome of the meeting with President Xi may well confirm it.
We shall see.
Kushner recently went to Iraq and has found allies in Gary Cohn, the National Economic Council director, and Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser for strategy, who have become more influential.
Likewise, will Trump be sucked into Syrian quicksand, in a Neocon’s wet dream?
Again, we shall see.