Disgruntled White House staffers have seemingly begun to turn on President Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. Since last week, reports have swirled that suggest Bannon might be behind the plague of Trump administration leaks. Trump allegedly suspects Bannon is the leaker, which doesn’t bode well for his already dwindling White House clout.

Following the horrific white nationalist attack in Charlottesville, VA, Bannon’s position in the White House is facing renewed criticism. As chairman of Breitbart news, Bannon once claimed that the blog was “the platform for the alt-right” which is a genteel way of saying “this site publishes white nationalists.” Needless to say, Bannon’s power in the administration has morphed into an issue for some of Trump’s advisors. While Trump clearly sympathizes with the Bannonites, he’s also in need of a fall guy for, oops, accidentally letting the world know how he feels about white nationalists.

Advertisement

Bannon gave Trump all the more reason to fire him on Wednesday and it wasn’t even a leak that did the damage. Apparently, Bannon admires Robert Kuttner, a journalist for The American Prospect (a magazine whose mission is “liberal intelligence”). Bannon was especially impressed by Kuttner’s analysis of China’s role in the escalating nuclear tensions between North Korea and the U.S. So Bannon called him to discuss the story. The ensuing conversation is quite candid...and on the record.

Some quotes that standout:

The president’s “fire and fury” improvisation must have been all him since Bannon pretty much says the opposite about an American military intervention in North Korea.

“There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Bannon’s public undermining of Trump isn’t even the most surprising part of the interview — it’s his characterization of the white nationalists who attended Saturday’s rally.

He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more.”

“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.

And that was all part of his plan, it seems?

“The Democrats,” he said, “the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.”

Bannon allegedly thought the interview was off the record. He’s, uh, on DEFCON 1-level bad, according to one aide. “Since Steve apparently enjoys casually undermining U.S. national security, I’ll put this in terms he’ll understand: This is DEFCON 1-level bad,” the aide told Axios.

Advertisement

Equating Bannon’s supposed misstep to Scaramucci’s hilarious New Yorker phone call is inaccurate, I think. A man who spent years as chairman of Breitbart knows the difference between off-the-record and on-the-record.