Jan 4, 2018

Bannon and Trump: Monsters they can't control

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."

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,929,312 — Total deaths: 357,781 — Total recoveries — 2,385,926Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,709,996 — Total deaths: 101,002 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Business: Louisiana senator says young people are key to reopening the economy —U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 22 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.

Podcast: Trump vs. Twitter, round two

President Trump is escalating his response to Twitter’s fact check of his recent tweets about mail-in voting, issuing an executive order that's designed to begin limiting social media's liability protections. Dan digs in with Axios' Margaret Harding McGill.

Go deeper: Twitter vs. Trump... vs. Twitter

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