Sunday 16 December 2018

Bannon vows to 'go to war' to keep peddling his opinions

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Photo: AP
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. Photo: AP

Nick Allen

Steve Bannon, the ousted White House chief strategist, is considering starting a TV network to rival Fox News which would allow him to "go thermonuclear" as he settles vendettas with moderate advisers in the White House.

Allies of Bannon compared him to a "tiger freed from his cage," suggesting things would get "ugly" as he targets the Republican establishment and what he calls "West Wing Democrats," including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who he has reportedly termed "Javanka".

Mr Bannon plans to pressure Donald Trump to pursue a populist agenda of economic nationalism.

Bannon's departure came amid one of Trump's worst weeks as president. He and Melania Trump, the first lady, decided not to participate in the annual Kennedy Centre Honours event celebrating American culture after a backlash from those being honoured. The White House said they were pulling out to "allow honorees to celebrate without political distraction".

Meanwhile, many charities cancelled annual fundraising events at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. They include the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and the American Cancer Society.

Bannon's TV network would be intended to rival Fox News, the Rupert Murdoch- owned channel which has been supportive of Trump, but which Bannon now regards as too liberal and "mushy".

Immediately after his departure on Friday he re-assumed control of Breitbart, the influential right-wing news website he steered before joining Trump's campaign last year. Bannon said he was "going to war for Trump," which appeared to mean the original hard line policies pursued during the campaign.

Bannon's new venture would probably be funded by Bob Mercer, the hedge fund billionaire and conservative mega-donor, who previously backed Breitbart and Trump.

Further targets of Mr Bannon's ire will include Gary Cohn, White House chief economic adviser, Steve Mnuchin, treasury secretary, and HR McMaster, national security adviser, with whom he appeared to have lost a battle over putting more troops in Afghanistan. They form part of a ring of presidential advisers sometimes known as the "globalists". Also in the firing line are Republicans in Congress such as Paul Ryan, house speaker, and Mitch McConnell, senate majority leader -who Bannon blames for stalling the Trump agenda, including funding for the border wall, and failing to overturn Obamacare.

Bannon has few allies left in the White House. There is speculation that the few who remain, including Stephen Miller, senior policy adviser, and Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant, could be purged by John Kelly, the chief of staff who is trying to bring order to the chaotic administration.

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