Jan 5, 2018

Steve Bannon was warned

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Friends and allies of Steve Bannon had been warning him for weeks to lay off Jared Kushner — telling him that President Trump would turn against him if he kept publicly attacking the son-in-law.

What we're hearing: Tommy Hicks, a Trump campaign fundraiser and the chairman of the favored pro-Trump outside group America First Policies, relayed a message from the White House to Bannon to "knock it the f— off" or else Trump would blow him up, according to two sources with direct knowledge.

Republican operative Arthur Schwartz was another of Bannon's friends who warned him about fixating on Jared too much and pushing Trump over the edge.

Both Schwartz and Hicks declined to comment.

The Hill's Jonathan Easley broke the news — and I can confirm his reporting — that on Wednesday morning Bannon and his allies were preparing to issue a statement disowning his damaging comments about the president's eldest son Don Junior.

Easley reports:

  • "Bannon on Wednesday was about to issue a statement praising Donald Trump Jr. and disputing his quotes in a book from Michael Wolff, but the statement was spiked after President Trump went nuclear on his former chief strategist."
  • "Bannon's aides sought to impress upon him the need to put out a statement quickly. The aides had crafted a statement, which was pending Bannon's approval, when the White House beat him to the punch."
  • "In the unreleased statement, Bannon had planned to call Trump Jr. a patriot and dispute the account in Wolff's book... in which Bannon described Trump Jr. as 'treasonous' and 'unpatriotic' for setting up a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer."

What's next: Some of Bannon's closest allies are urging him to still issue such a statement and make peace with Trump and his family. Bannon is resisting. He's quite like Trump in this respect: he views any apology or admission of error as a sign of weakness. But it may be the only way to preserve some sort of a political future for himself.

Go deeper

Facebook to block ads from state-controlled media entities in the U.S.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Facebook said Thursday it will begin blocking state-controlled media outlets from buying advertising in the U.S. this summer. It's also rolling out a new set of labels to provide users with transparency around ads and posts from state-controlled outlets. Outlets that feel wrongly labeled can appeal the process.

Why it matters: Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of security policy, says the company hasn't seen many examples yet of foreign governments using advertising to promote manipulative content to U.S. users, but that the platform is taking this action out of an abundance of caution ahead of the 2020 election.

Virginia governor announces removal of Richmond's Robert E. Lee statue

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that the state will remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond's historic Monument Avenue.

Why it matters: It's a watershed moment for Virginia, which has been at the center of a years-long national debate about whether Confederate monuments should be displayed publicly. That discussion reached a boiling point when protests about a statue of Lee in Charlottesville turned violent in 2017.

RNC expands convention search across the Sun Belt

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their families on the last night of the Republican National Convention in Ohio in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images.

The Republican National Committee is planning site visits over the next 10 days to more than a half-dozen cities — across the South and into Texas and Arizona — as it scrambles for a new convention host, people familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios.

Driving the news: The RNC's executive committee voted Wednesday night to allow most of the convention to move — with only a smaller, official portion remaining in Charlotte — after North Carolina's governor said the coronavirus pandemic would mean a scaled-back event with social distancing and face coverings.