Trump’s Syria Strike Is Latest Sign of Bannon’s Waning Influence
Gabriel Sherman, NY Magazine, Apr 7 2017
Donald Trump’s surprise decision to launch missile strikes against Assad’s forces in response to Tuesday’s chemical attack represented a reversal from Trump’s non-interventionist campaign message. It’s also the most recent sign of the declining power of his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon. Two sources close to Bannon told me the former Breitbart executive chairman argued against the strike, not because of its questionable constitutionality, but on the grounds that it doesn’t advance Trump’s Pindostan First doctrine. One Bannon ally told me:
Steve doesn’t think we belong there.
Bannon’s position lost out to those inside the White House, including Jared Kushner, who argued Trump needed to punish the Assad regime. The debate over Syria is the latest fault-line that has opened up in the once close Bannon-Kushner relationship. One Bannon associate said:
During the campaign and transition, they had an almost uncle-nephew thing going.
In recent weeks, Kushner and Bannon have clashed over the direction of Trump’s agenda. While the press has covered it as a personality feud, Bannon allies say the rift is about policy differences. Bannon told an associate, according to a source:
The press is calling it fighting. We call it debating.
On a board in his West Wing office, Bannon keeps a list of promises Trump made to voters. Kushner, whose portfolio has ballooned in recent weeks, seems much less interested in keeping those promises. The power struggle is growing more personal. Bannon allies inside and outside the White House say he is disappointed and blames Kushner in part for some of the damaging leaks about him. If before there were philosophical differences in the White House, now there are clearly-defined camps. On one side are “the nationalists”: Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Julia Hahn. On the other are “the democrats”: Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Gary Cohn. Bannon is growing increasingly frustrated with Cohn and is particularly unhappy to be receiving much of the blame for the health-care debacle. Cohn, who was deeply involved in the effort, emerged unscathed. Health care was “100% Gary,” one person close to Bannon said. During a recent White House meeting, when the subject of Cohn came up, Bannon reportedly told associates:
I love a gunfight!
Despite his waning influence, Bannon recently told an ally that he won’t quit. If Trump wants him out, he’ll have to fire him.