Steve Bannon Is Going To War Against The Republican Congress

Steve Bannon may be out of the White House, but his efforts to continue pushing President Trump, and the Republican Party, even further to the populist far-right continues.

Steve Bannon

Steve Bannon was interviewed last night on 60 Minutes and, based on it comments, he appears to be ready to go to war with the Republicans in Congress:

Stephen K. Bannon — President Trump’s former chief strategist who left the White House in August — declared war Sunday against the Republican congressional leadership, called on Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, to resign, and outlined his views on issues ranging from immigration to trade.

Bannon, in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) of “trying to nullify the 2016 election.” It was Bannon’s first television interview since leaving the White House and returning as executive chairman to Breitbart News, the conservative website he previously led.

He blamed them for failing to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law and made clear that he would use his Breitbart perch to hold Republicans accountable for not helping Trump push through his agenda.

“They’re not going to help you unless they’re put on notice,” he told CBS’s Charlie Rose. “They’re going to be held accountable if they do not support the president of the United States. Right now there’s no accountability.”

Stressing absolute loyalty to Trump, Bannon criticized members of the administration who, he said, had leaked to the news media their displeasure with the way Trump handled the white-supremacist-fueled violence in Charlottesville, which left one dead and more­ ­injured.

“You can tell him, ‘Hey, maybe you can do it a better way.’ But if you’re going to break, then resign. If you’re going to break with him, resign,” he said. “If you find it unacceptable, you should resign.”

He explicitly mentioned Cohn, Trump’s director of the National Economic Council who had criticized Trump’s response in an interview with the Financial Times, and said he “absolutely” thought Cohn should have resigned.

Bannon joined the Trump campaign in August 2016 and emerged as the president’s ideological id, channeling his populist and nationalist impulses. Though he made many enemies in the West Wing, including the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and clashed with John F. Kelly, Trump’s second chief of staff, Bannon remains close to Trump.

Recalling a particularly low moment in the campaign — the emergence of the “Access Hollywood” tape that captured Trump bragging about groping women — Bannon dismissed it as “just locker room talk,” but he said the moment served as an important “litmus test” for loyalty to Trump.

At the time, Reince Priebus, Trump’s first chief of staff, urged the then-candidate to either drop out of the race or face a historic loss. And, Bannon said, Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), who served as a campaign adviser overseeing Trump’s transition plan, lost a likely spot in the president’s Cabinet because of his response to the ­video.

“I told him: ‘The plane leaves at 11 o’clock in the morning. If you’re on the plane, you’re on the team,’ ” Bannon said, referring to Christie. “Didn’t make the plane.”

When Bannon left the White House last month, there was a host of speculation over what exactly we’d come to see from him, and from Trump, in the future. From the outside, it seemed clear that Bannon’s dismissal, despite being framed as a resignation, was, in fact, a dismissal that was part of the effort of Chief of Staff John Kelly to gain control of an especially chaotic White House. Additionally, it was unclear what the impact of Bannon’s dismissal would be and whether he remained on good terms with President Trump, especially when he stated to a reporter after it was announced that he was returning to his old position at Breitbart News that the Trump Presidency was “over” and that the White House was now “Democratic” thanks to the influence of people like Kelly. Additionally, within hours after Bannon’s dismissal, Joel Pollack, a senior editor at Breitbart, sent out a Tweet that had a single word, “#War,” which appeared to signal that the reaction from the alt-right publication to Bannon’s apparent dismissal would be a negative one. Shortly thereafter, an article appeared on Breitbart’s front page under Pollack’s byline with the headline “With Steve Bannon Gone, Donald Trump Risks Becoming Arnold Schwarzenegger 2.0.” As Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen noted at the time, this had all the signs of a “right wing army” preparing to go to war:

Bannon’s return is likely to boost both himself and the site. “Breitbart is kind of rudderless right now,” said Cernovich, an Infowars contributor who has been critical of Breitbart but echoed similar grumblings that I have heard from several people within the right-wing media orbit over the last several months. “There’s a lot of discontent. People are claiming that Breitbart is being run by lawyers, and they lack an editorial vision. With Bannon back at the helm, they’ll have an editorial vision again, and they’ll get back to doing what they do best.”

Even before Bannon’s return was made official, the site’s writers had a field day on Twitter, either declaring that they, too, were prepared to fight the globalist agenda with their former chairman, or trolling the jumpy politicos trying to figure out what the populist-nationalist organ would do next

Stranahan suggested that the White House’s loss could be Breitbart’s gain, and vice versa. “It wouldn’t shock me if the president reconsiders this pretty quickly. But the only way he’ll reconsider it is if he gets rid of the other globalists in the White House.” As any good military strategist will tell you—even, perhaps, McMaster himself—sometimes you have to lose a battle in order to win a war.

In the time since then, though, Breitbart has by and large continued to be stalwart defender of the President’s agenda even while attacking some members of the Trump Administration and the White House inner circle who the opinion site claimed were betraying the agenda that the President had run on and attempting to push him to the political left on a wide variety of issues. This interview seems to make clear that Bannon remains loyal to Trump and that he intends to use the voice that Breitbart News gives him on the right generally and with the Trump base inside the GOP to “protect” the President from the people he perceives to be the enemies of that agenda.

It’s unclear at this point what form Bannon’s “war” would take. For the time being, obviously, it will likely be limited to attacks on Twitter on people such as Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom have been targets of the Tea Party/Trump crowd for some time now. Beyond that, though, one has to wonder what Bannon might be planning for the 2018 election. For example, are we talking about openly backing candidates in primary elections? In that case, it’s not clear exactly what he thinks he might accomplish. Yes, it’s possible that a grassroots effort could cause serious problems for Republican incumbents in the House and Senate who are deemed to be insufficiently obsequious toward the Trump agenda, but that risks putting in their place nominees who could end up being so far to the right that their seats end up being in jeopardy in much the same way that the Tea Party’s support for candidates such as Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle caused the GOP to lose races that it arguably could have won with less radical, more experienced candidates. There have also been rumors that Bannon is plotting the creation of a media empire that would compete with outlets like Fox News Channel and Glenn Beck’s The Blaze. Such an outlet would give him the ability to spread the populist message outside of Breitbart and to continue his efforts to ensure that Trump adheres to the agenda that he adopted during the campaign notwithstanding the influence of people like General Kelly, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump. Whichever avenue he chooses, though, it seems clear that Bannon intends to be around for awhile, and that we’re likely to hear more from him now that he is out of the White House and free to speak out in a way he wasn’t before. That means, of course, continuing his efforts to push the Republican Party further to the populist far-right that was represented by Trump’s 2016 campaign, and that is by no means a good thing.

Here’s Bannon’s full interview:

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Few things make me smile more than the thought of Republicans eating each other for dinner.

  2. Facebones says:

    This is like the Cowboys playing the Patriots. It’s hard to pick the less loathsome side to root for.

  3. Richard DeMent says:

    Bannon’s problem (and most of the hard line right wingers in congress) is that he has no earthly clue as to how the founders set up the government in the first place. It was set up to be a compromise government and doesn’t work when people have no interest in compromising. He seems to be under the impression that the office of president is king of America when, at best, the presidency is more akin to a strong mayor.

    Sadly the same can be said of the American people. Too many want their elected representatives to be uncompromising and are disappointed when they can’t get anything done. They can’t grasp that that the reason they can’t get anything done is becase those representatives are being uncompromising.

  4. Argon says:

    HarvardLaw92: “Few things make me smile more than the thought of Republicans eating each other for dinner.”

    Best if slow-roasted. There’s a lot of fat in the party.

    Probably tastes like muskrat, though.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Yes, it’s possible that a grassroots effort could cause serious problems for Republican incumbents in the House and Senate who are deemed to be insufficiently obsequious toward the Trump agenda, but that risks putting in their place nominees who could end up being so far to the right that their seats end up being in jeopardy

    Yep. go ahead Steve, shoot your great white savior in the foot or both for that matter. But just in case anybody had any delusions about stupidity being limited to the right:

    Another option is to try attaching — or refusing to support — other measures that might require Democratic votes. The National Defense Authorization Act, which funds the military, has to be reauthorized. The Child Health Insurance Program is another possible point at which Democrats could exercise their leverage, as is a flood insurance bill. The position of Indivisible and the activist group is that Democrats should attach the DREAM Act to every piece of legislation. Should these measures fail to yield legislation that protects DREAMers, then activists would again demand Democrats use their leverage on the debt ceiling or the government shutdown.

    “This was a deal with a white supremacist that let the DREAMers down,” said Ezra Levin of Indivisible. “This is on Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer — if they fail to get the DREAM Act done, this is on them.”

    Still, Durbin, one of the top-ranking Democrats, told the podcast Pod Save America on Thursday that Schumer and Pelosi had gotten the best deal they could from Trump, and rejected the idea of vowing to shut down the government without protections for DREAMers.

    “I get their anxiety and I get their emotion, but let’s think about this coolly. How will we get to the finish line with 60+ votes in the Senate?” Durbin asked.

    “We don’t need no stinking 60 votes to fulfill our own self righteousness. We just need somebody to blame!”

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Forgot to say, the unattributed quotation above is from Vox’s ” “We all have Christmas, or nobody has Christmas”: activists want DACA tied to debt limit

    No linkee because of spambot-ee

  7. Moosebreath says:

    I predict we may soon see popcorn rationing, as there won’t be enough to go around otherwise.

  8. Slugger says:

    Here is my crazy idea:
    How about if we ignore this guy who appears to be a hybrid of Rush Limbaugh’s mouth and W.C. Field’s nose. What has ever done that did not deserve to be dismissed with a laugh? I will admit that his participation in Trump’s election has me laughing ruefully, but I am laughing.

  9. CSK says:

    Trump is backing Luther Strange; Bannon is opposed to Luther Strange. How is this going to work?

  10. KM says:

    Obey the King or else.

    Trump is King because Breitbart and its followers helped make him King. He listens to what Bannon has to say and Breitbart’s words often come out of the King’s mouth. The King’s Adviser may not have his office but still has the King’s ear.

    Therefore, obey what Brietbart says or they will stir up King and Country against you. The Adviser’s reach is long and so are his knives.

    Didn’t we fight several wars against this kind of philosophy? Found our nation on the premise that this kind of thing is bunk and that we choose our government to serve us, not a single figurehead? Takes some kinda nerve to accuse the Left of groupthink and being the thought police when Bannon’s literally telling the legislative body of our nation they better be “accountable” to a single man.

  11. CSK says:


    Bannon has compared himself to Lenin, in that his great desire is to reduce the government to smoking rubble. I’m not being hyperbolic; Hannon said that. He wants to burn it all down.

    He’s also encouraging Paul Nehlen to primary Paul Ryan again. Last time that happened, it was Ryan 84, Nehlen 16.

  12. Kylopod says:


    He’s also encouraging Paul Nehlen to primary Paul Ryan again. Last time that happened, it was Ryan 84, Nehlen 16.

    Ryan’s negative poll numbers have skyrocketed since then, particularly among Trump supporters. After what happened to Eric Cantor (who beat back a primary challenger at 79% two years before being primaried out of office), I wouldn’t count anything out.

    And remember, a primary challenger doesn’t need to beat the incumbent in order to be effective. Just making him sweat enough to pressure him to move to the right is itself a major factor in what has caused the GOP to go off the deep end in recent years.

  13. Tyrell says:

    This seems like a good time to organize a third party made of Republicans and Democrats who are not pleased with their party. It seems a split is developing between the traditional Reagan Republican people and the Trump Republicans. Many of the Democratic people do not want California style programs and philosophies that the Democrat Party leaders have been pushing. Looks like the middle class people are looking for an alternative.

  14. CSK says:


    All true–but Ryan was hated by the base long before Trump and Bannon were factors. And Dave Brat at least acted and sounded sane, which is something that cannot be said of Nehlen.

  15. Kylopod says:


    Dave Brat at least acted and sounded sane


    “In an April 21, 2015, interview with radio talk show host Rusty Humphries, Brat claimed that the terrorist group ISIS has set up a base in Texas. “In our country it looks like we have an ISIS center in Texas now…You can’t make up what a terrible problem this is.” After the Texas Department of Public Safety responded that there was no substantiation for the claim, Brat’s office said that he had really meant to say Mexico, not Texas, citing the conservative group Judicial Watch, which declined to provide any substantiation for its report.”

  16. CSK says:


    Ah, okay. I missed that.

  17. Ben Wolf says:

    This isn’t a matter of moderate conservatives vs. extreme conservatives. There are no moderates in the Republican Party.

    The leadership in Congress is totally in thrall to the “vile maxim” Adam Smith attributed to the Masters of Mankind: all for ourselves and nothing for other people. In fact we can see the logical conclusion of their goals is destruction of multi-cellular life on the planet. These are not people with whom a sane man or woman can compromise.

    Bannon wants that group dead (metaphorically.) He’s devoted to destroying the political infrastructure that empowers the Masters and will spread as much chaos as necessary to accomplish that goal. And he has the advantage, because Republican orthodoxy has little to no popular support.

  18. Kylopod says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    This isn’t a matter of moderate conservatives vs. extreme conservatives. There are no moderates in the Republican Party.

    As I like to say, it isn’t Rockefeller vs. Goldwater anymore. It’s Goldwater vs. the Birchers, where Goldwater is the RINO, and Rockefeller is Bill Clinton.

  19. Tyrell says:

    @Ben Wolf: No moderates : John Kasich? Lindsay Graham? Tim Scott? George Pataki?
    Sonny Purdue? Lamar Alexander? Lamar Alexander?

  20. Ben Wolf says:

    @Tyrell: Dismantling every last protection for the people against predatory corporations, transferring taxation from the wealthy to the working class, starving the poor and bathing the planet in the endless glow of exploding bombs are not moderate positions. They’re insanity. What else does one call the absolute refusal to recognize we are polluting ourselves into extinction?

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Bannon really does look like this character…he seems just as repulsive too…

  22. Kylopod says:


    John Kasich? Lindsay Graham? Tim Scott? George Pataki? Sonny Purdue? Lamar Alexander?

    None of those people would be considered “moderates” in the 1970s or 1980s. Kasich, for example, has an 88% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union during his House tenure. It seems nowadays that a “moderate” is any Republican who shows some seriousness in policy-making, even if ideologically they’re hardcore conservatives.

    Indeed, it’s important to understand that Ronald Reagan, if you judge by the policies he supported, would be a massive RINO by today’s standards. He openly supported amnesty. I don’t mean the anodyne “path to citizenship” that Republicans reflexively call amnesty, I mean actual amnesty. He raised taxes seven times during his presidency. He supported the Brady Bill sanctioning background checks for firearms. He had the government bail out a failing bank. I could go on.

    Here’s an illustration of how far the GOP has moved to the right in the past several decades (not to speak of the last eight years). When President Ford was battling it out with Reagan during the 1976 primaries, in order to appease the conservative wing of the party, represented by Reagan, he passed over the sitting vice president Nelson Rockefeller and chose as his running mate…Bob Dole.

    Yes, in the 1970s Bob Dole was regarded as sitting plainly on the conservative wing of the party, yet by the time he finally won the GOP nomination in the 1990s he was regarded as a moderate. Now he’s a RINO. That’s because when people talk about the conservative/moderate divide of the 1960s and 1970s, while it’s often analogized to the RINO vs. Tea Party battles today, this is a mistake. The fact is that the liberal/moderate “Rockefeller” wing of the party is gone–nonexistent. The entire ideological battle today is fought on a turf that’s based entirely on what was once the conservative wing of the party. It’s not moderate vs. conservative, it’s right vs. far right.

    And note that I’m not just talking based on my own partisan biases: there have been extensive studies showing the ideological drift of the party. A chart by DW-NOMINATE shows the effect starkly: elected Democrats in the past several decades have moved somewhat leftward overall (largely due to the defection of Southerners from the party), but elected Republicans have moved by a far sharper margin to the right.

    Of course “moderate” is a relative term, and there are always going to be elected Republicans who are more moderate (or less extreme) than others in their party. Before long we’ll reach a point where the likes of Michelle Bachmann is a RINO. In the Trump/Bannon era I definitely would not count out that possibility.

  23. Tyrell says:

    @Kylopod: Lamar?I have always considered him a moderate as have many others. George – called one of the last true moderates of the Republican party.

  24. Kylopod says:


    George – called one of the last true moderates of the Republican party.

    And the man hasn’t been in office in over 10 years. Doesn’t that prove my point?

    And what has he been doing since leaving office? Well, for one thing, endorsing Kid Rock’s putative senatorial bid. No, I’m not kidding–and apparently neither was he.

    If that’s your prime example of one of the “last true moderates” in the party, there really is something seriously effing wrong with the party.

  25. al-Ameda says:


    …philosophies that the Democrat Party leaders have been pushing.

    I’m not aware of a ‘Democrat Party.’
    Perhaps that could be the name of a new Third Party?

  26. Terrye Cravens says:

    @KM: Thomas Cromwell was the King’s advisor and more…and look how things turned out for him.

  27. Terrye Cravens says:

    @Ben Wolf: There are moderates in the Republican Party, however, they have been sidelined by the crazies. That is one reason people are retiring. The Democrats on the other hand have to deal with Independents like Bernie Sanders who believe they can set policy for a party they do not actually belong to at all.

    We have 4 parties. And they are not compromising. And Trump is obviously insane and can not act as a leader in any way. He is just gas on the fire.

  28. Kylopod says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    There are moderates in the Republican Party, however, they have been sidelined by the crazies.

    My problem with statements like that is it implies “moderate” simply means an absence of craziness. It does not. You can be conservative without being nuts. Just because you don’t talk like Michelle Bachmann or Alex Jones does not make you a moderate. “Crazy” is not a point on the political spectrum. (Heck, you can even be moderate AND crazy–think of Ross Perot.) The party has indeed been taken over by crazies, but the non-crazies aren’t necessarily “moderates.” It’s lazy thinking like this that leads to the idea that people like, say, Paul Ryan are “moderates.”

  29. Mr. Prosser says:

    @An Interested Party: Charlie Pierce has been referring to Bannon as “the last heir to House Harkonnen” for quite awhile.

  30. Monala says:

    @Kylopod: Indeed. I remember how in 2012, Paul Ryan was the darling of the Tea Party. At a campaign stop, they were chanting Ryan’s name, causing Romney to look rather pathetic by trying to redirect the chant: “No, it’s Romney-Ryan, Romney-Ryan!” These days, the Tea Party types consider Ryan a RINO.

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