Aug 19, 2017

Bannon plots Fox competitor, global expansion

Sam Jayne / Axios

Unshaven and working from home in cargo shorts as he moves into "Bannon the Barbarian" mode, Steve Bannon is thinking bigger than Breitbart.

Axios' Jonathan Swan hears Bannon has told friends he sees a massive opening to the right of Fox News, raising the possibility that he's going to start a network.

  • Bannon's friends are speculating about whether it will be a standalone TV network, or online streaming only.
  • Before his death in May, Roger Ailes had sent word to Bannon that he wanted to start a channel together. Bannon loved the idea: He believes Fox is heading in a squishy, globalist direction as the Murdoch sons assume more power.
  • Now he has the means, motive and opportunity: His chief financial backer, Long Island hedge fund billionaire Bob Mercer, is ready to invest big in what's coming next, including a huge overseas expansion of Breitbart News.

On Day 1, Bannon declared he's taking his West Wing infighting to the outside, telling Bloomberg Businessweek's Josh Green that he's "going to war for Trump against his opponents — on Capitol Hill, in the media, and in corporate America."

  • The reality is that Bannon will go nuclear on former colleagues he calls "West Wing Democrats": economic adviser Gary Cohn, Jared and Ivanka ("Javanka," as he calls them) and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell.
  • The revved-up Breitbart operation is also likely to target Speaker Ryan, as it did before Trump.

Why it matters: The country's national political conversation is about to get even uglier, if you can imagine. It's going to be dark, and toxic, with a fight on the right that may be more bitter and personal than hostilities between Republicans and Democrats.

  • Bannon signaled his subtle approach in a for-the-ages Weekly Standard interview: "The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over … I feel jacked up … Now I'm free. I've got my hands back on my weapons. … I am definitely going to crush the opposition. There's no doubt. I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart. And now … we're about to rev that machine up."
  • His restoration as executive chairman of Breitbart News was announced less than five hours after the White House confirmed his "mutually agreed" departure as chief strategist. (Translation: He was told he wasn't long for the West Wing.)
  • Bannon made a "conqueror's return" to a Breitbart editorial conference call last night, and laid out the battle ahead for the staff.
  • Josh Green — author of "Devil's Bargain," the book that helped get Bannon fired because Trump hates sharing the spotlight — tweeted: "Bannon sounded like he'd just consumed 40 Red Bulls … At least [he] didn't say he's leaving to spend more time with his family."

Around the corner: Expect Bannon to use Breitbart to engage aggressively in September's policy fights. Watch for Bannon to pressure Trump to veto any government funding bill that doesn't include money to fund the building of that big, beautiful wall he promised along the southern border with Mexico.

Watch for a real fight over the debt ceiling. In other words: Buckle up.

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