Steve Bannon, in his first extensive interview since he left the White House last month, hinted at a looming war not with the opposing Democratic Party, but within the GOP itself.
“The Republican establishment is trying to nullify the 2016 election,” Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who helped lead Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign, told CBS News’ Charlie Rose in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday. “[Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, and to a degree, [House Speaker] Paul Ryan. They do not want Donald Trump’s populist, economic nationalist agenda to be implemented. It’s very obvious. It’s very obvious what they are trying to do.”
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Bannon went on to assert that such Republican leaders don’t support the President’s “program,” nor do they want to “drain the swamp” because it has been a “successful business model” based on donors and lobbyists, for some 50 years. He also expressed dismay that in the immediate aftermath of the election win, they chose to “embrace the establishment.”
“You might call it the original sin of the administration,” Bannon said. “Our whole campaign was a little bit [like] the island of misfit toys. So [Trump] looks around and I’m wearing my combat jacket, I haven’t shaved, my hair’s down to here, and he is thinking, ‘Hey, I’ve got to put together a government. I’ve got to really staff up something.’”
Of the recent announcement by Trump that Congress had six months to sort out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era program that provides legal protections for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, Bannon argued that the program should be abolished once and for all. He also said he was worried that Republicans would lose the House as a result of DACA.
“It will be a civil war inside the Republican Party that will be every bit as vitriolic as 2013. And to me, doing that in the springboard of primary season for 2018 is extremely unwise,” he said, before illuminating the need to “focus on American citizens” and encourage immigrants to “self deport” by not renewing their work permits as they expire. “There’s no path to citizenship, no path to a green card and no amnesty. Amnesty is non-negotiable.”
Bannon, who has since returned to running the conservative news website Breitbart, refers to himself as a “street-fighter” who will continue to advocate for the president from outside federal government constraints and “make sure his enemies know there’s no free shot on goal.”
Throughout the interview he also took aim at the George W. Bush administration and what he called the president’s “idiot” security apparatus – including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell – for allowing China to ignite economic war with the U.S. and embroil the U.S. in the Iraq war.
He also dismissed the ongoing Russia investigation, and the extent of Moscow’s impact on the 2016 election, as a “waste of time.” When Rose asked him why Trump “finds it so hard so criticize Russia,” Bannon argued that Trump “knows the Russians are not good guys” but doesn’t see the point of “picking another fight.”
Bannon ended the interview with a lashing out at the mainstream media, defending President Trump’s rampant and often controversial use of Twitter to communicate his views.
“What he does on Twitter is extraordinary. He disintermediates the media. He goes above their heads and talks directly to the American people,” Bannon added. “I don’t think he needs the Washington Post, the New York Times and CBS News. And I don’t believe he thinks that they’re looking out what is his best interest… He knows he is speaking directly to the people who put him in office when he uses Twitter. And sometimes it is not custom and tradition of what the opposition party deems appropriate… And he’s not going to stop.”