Photo: Evan Vucci (AP)

Nearly two years after his ignominious exit from the White House, shirt enthusiast and white nationalist Steve Bannon is reportedly on the cusp of working his way back into President Donald Trump’s good graces, just in time for the 2020 election.

“I think Steve wants it,” former Trump advisor and Bannon confidant Sam Nunberg told Alexander Nazaryan in a newly published excerpt from Nazaryan’s just-released The Best People: Trump’s Cabinet and the Siege on Washington.

The president seems inclined to agree.

“I watched Bannon a few times, four or five times over the last six months,” Trump told Nazaryan this past winter during an interview for the book. “Nobody says anything better about me right now than Bannon. I don’t know.”

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“There is nobody that has been more respectful of the job I’m doing than Steve Bannon,” Trump later added.

The fact that Trump is so openly willing to talk about Bannon’s good qualities—namely, that he says nice things about Trump—marks a decided 180 from the president’s previous comments about his onetime puppet-master, whom he dubbed “sloppy Steve” and claimed “cried when he got fired” in 2017.

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Bannon, meanwhile, has spent his post-White House career speaking to near-empty ballrooms, getting evicted from 13th century monasteries, and waxing on about why Martin Luther King would be a huge MAGA fan.

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Throughout it all, though, Bannon has kept up his efforts to claw his way back into the president’s inner circle—a Sisyphean task that, per Nazaryan’s reporting, could actually pay off. But that’s not to say we should expect to see Bannon make an official return to Trump’s re-election campaign.

“He will never be back in an official capacity,” a White House-adjacent source who spoke anonymously with Nazaryan said. “But if he’s smart, he could get back into good graces.” And with Trump, that might be all it takes to play a major role in the president’s decision-making process. (Think Roger Stone, or the various Fox News talking heads with whom the Trump reportedly confers with about important administration policies).

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Whether the president will ever fully welcome Bannon back with open arms remains an open question. But as with all things Trump, the fact that he’s willing to walk back what seemed at one time to be an irreconcilable schism is another example of what matters most to the president: himself.