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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

For all their grenades over Michael Wolff's bombshell book, Steve Bannon and President Trump have something stunning in common: Each helped create a monster he can't control.

The two men are actually a lot alike: They both have grandiose views of themselves, play to the base instincts of voters, and obsess about reporters — and regularly feed them on the sly.

  • To hear Bannon tell it, there'd be no President Trump without him. That's probably not true, but he did provide some intellectual fabric to Trump's loose ideas. Oh, and coverage by his media company, Breitbart, was an in-kind contribution to Trump Inc.
  • And without Trump, Bannon would still be a colorful but little-known media executive and radio gadfly. Trump not only gave him national prominence and relevance, he smuggled him — for a time — onto the National Security Council.

How's this for palace intrigue? Despite knowing his trashing of President Trump was coming in Wolff's bombshell of a book, Bannon had continued talking to the president, and had even been telling friends he wanted to run Trump's reelection in 2020.

  • Bannon has described himself to friends as a "revolutionary" and not in an ironic way. He genuinely views himself as a transformational figure of history, who belongs in the history books. A source who knows Bannon well — and is mostly sympathetic to him — told us he thinks Bannon is even more narcissistic than Trump.

And how's this for a twist? Bannon has also told friends he'd run for president in 2020 if Trump does not, knowing the same book would include his on-the-record argument that Mueller could topple Trump.

  • He wants to be Trump's heir — and has a plan for positioning himself to pick up the president's unusual coalition. Bannon has been traveling the country, building his own base and name ID with his campaign to support insurgent Republicans who would run in primaries against Mitch McConnell's handpicked candidates.
  • The travel has had the double effect of putting Bannon in all the right places for a future run at office.

It's no secret Bannon is a mischief-maker and fancies himself a Machiavellian operative. But this is some out-there behavior, and arguably the craziest episode of the Trump show:

  • The man who helped elect Trump last year, seemingly trying to destroy all of those around him, including the president's son and son-in-law, 12 months later.
  • Wolff's book was known internally as the Bannon book, because he opened the door to the author's extraordinary access. Jared Kushner, in particular, feared it would be used to settle scores. Damn, was he right.

And, damn: He's a lot like the man who made him.

Flashback: Axios' Jonathan Swan, Aug. 12: "Trump suspects Bannon of leaking, putting job in jeopardy."

Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily morning newsletter, Axios AM.

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Go deeper

3 hours ago - World

Over 170 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem

An injured man is carried away as Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

At least 178 Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem, Reuters reported late Friday.

The big picture: The clashes come amid growing anger over the threatened eviction of Palestinians from their homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Tensions have also escalated in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Oklahoma secures $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine purchase — Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Ohio GOP censures Rep. Anthony Gonzalez over Trump impeachment vote

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Ohio Republican Party on Friday censured Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and called for him to resign for voting to impeach former President Trump in January, Reuters reports.

The big picture: Gonzalez is the latest Republican lawmaker to be punished for voting to impeach the former president on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.