Speaking to Michael Goodwin of the New York Post, the president gave his controversial righthand man an endorsement that was less than ringing. “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump told the newspaper. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
Trump’s claim is, strictly speaking, untrue. Trump was consulting with Bannon long before Bannon became the campaign CEO in August of 2016. But this is how Trump deals with associates who later cause him problems. Sean Spicer has claimed that Paul Manafort played only a “limited role” in the campaign, after Manafort’s ties to Russian-friendly associates started to cause the Trump administration headaches. Manafort was, in fact, Trump’s campaign manager.
Bannon is now engaged in a fierce White House turf battle with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Which makes Trump’s comments all the more significant, since Kushner often uses the New York Post as an outlet for leaks. To date, Kushner has outlasted all his internal rivals, his family connection to Trump making him seemingly impervious to challenge. At the very least, Bannon should worry about Trump’s final comments to the Post: “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will.”
The consequences of axing Bannon could be serious. Breitbart, the media arm of Trump’s white nationalist base, would lose its mind. But this is how Trump has always operated: He leans on people until they’re no longer useful, then tosses them aside. As the longtime Trump chronicler Wayne Barrett told The New Republic in an interview before his death: “A guy like Steve Bannon ... I don’t know much about the guy, so I could be completely misunderstanding him, but I think that’s a guy Trump uses up quickly. That’ll be a body he steps over.”